I painted this while after my lung CT. My husband feels like it was indicative of my mood.
Except I don’t have a wheeze. I have a cough.
I had my follow up appointment with the lung dude (that is what I have started to call the pulmonologist the “lung dude”). I had a quick chest Xray before my appointment. The waiting room for most scans, of all kinds, happens to be next to the breast cancer clinic and my favorite surgical oncology nurse walked by and gave me a funny look (in a good way, because she cares). She asked me what I was doing in that area. I explained that we were making sure my lung wasn’t deflating more than it already had, nothing too exciting (really, because I am not stressed about that one, just need to not have high impact chest injuries right now).
When it was appointment time, the “lung dude” came in, I explained that my energy was through the roof (I am talking bouncing off walls here, BOUNCING). I have been spending a lot of quality time with friends (which makes me super happy because I spent a few weekends in bed – seriously brings tears to my eyes how much awesome time I have spent with awesome people since we have been able to get my energy up and me feeling better). I am not falling asleep on the couch the minute I get home from work (which was seriously freaking my husband out, I haven’t done that since radiation). I have actually been cooking dinner on a very regular basis again (cooking is also how I unwind, so when I can’t cook for a few weeks, it is usually a bad sign on my energy level). I have been a busy little bee! I have been coughing every few days vs. every few hours.
This gave the verdict that the Advair worked. His official term was “obstructive lung disease-ish,” ok maybe less official, but I couldn’t remember the words he used. When I tried to remember after the appointment. My mom insisted he meant something along the lines of asthma (the coughing kind will pass the asthma test that I passed, and sadly the air in Utah is bad bad bad, even if the mountains are pretty). The coughing kind of asthma will pass a normal kind of asthma test (confusing I know) and they don’t really know the cause of this one either (although allergy or an illness can come into play).
No more experimenting. Mandi is fixed. YAY. Well, sort of… I will continue taking Advair for a few months and then we will try to take me off because he doesn’t want me on it permanently if I don’t have to be on it (cross your fingers kids).
When they looked at my lung Xray they said “wow, your lungs look amazing, I wish all of our patients lungs looked like this,” which kind of makes you proud for 5 seconds, until your realize you are hanging out in the lung cancer clinic and then it kind of takes your breath away (literally and figuratively).
They don’t have us breast cancer people wander on down and back and forth (it is all about “clinics” people… which feels a little separated (especially in the middle of October where I am constantly biting my tongue because I love people and people mean the best). Usually, you have people who specialize in your area if you have a common cancer such as breast cancer. I had been sent to the pulmonologists at Huntsman because they are good doctors and they could squeeze me in quickly (unlike most specialists) and it is nice to have someone close by check it things out that can walk upstairs and chat with my oncologist.
This brought me to my next point with “lung dude.” I asked if I should simplify, simplify, simplify. Should I have my general practitioner deal with the Advair and have my Oncologist deal with the nodules. This is when he explained trying to take me off Advair (which is a good thing, because I didn’t explain to him that I regularly attempt weening myself off of major medications – except Tamoxifen – to try to cut down on all of the crap I take these days – which isn’t always a good thing to do on your own, but I am a rebel – I never just take meds long term).
I discussed that my oncology NP had suggested that we would do a 3 month CT vs. his recommended 6 month and if I should check in/run the whole thing though “team pink.” He sounded like he really wanted to hang out with me over the next couple of years while we do all of the fun CTs to verify no nodular growth in my lungs a.k.a. no metastatic breast cancer (not that we think I have it, but “with my history, we have to rule it out”). He decided that the 3 month mark made sense and switched my 6 month CT to 3 months, and now we do “the big-you-are-fine checkup” on January 15th.
The loveliest of lovely people at Huntsman got me squeezed in with the Pulmonologist up there today (when they say next available appointment I usually expect day or two), which is good because Mike and I took work off because we were not quite in the best mental place after hearing the word “nodules” involving my lungs… We had expected a clear CT in the back of our minds. We were sort of thrown into a strange place because that is what a tumor in the lung is usually called at first… a nodule. Not to mention a collapsed lung (no matter how small it is, how strange is that?).
We are both back to a level of mental calm after the storm because we have learned that your body really can only handle a certain amount of freak-out and then you have to find your happier place.
We were shipped off to a new wing at the Huntsman. This clinic was much larger than the breast cancer clinic, and it was covered in rich mahogany (ok I don’t know what wood it was, but it was pretty). It is a large hospital and you get used to your own nooks and crannies, so new areas seem like very uncharted territory. One thing I do love about the Huntsman is that they do hire really good doctors and great nurses, for some reason I always really extra love the nurses.
When we met with the doctor he sat down and we went over my vast history of attempts at squelching my phantom cough. From antibiotics, to asthma tests, to steroids, to dancing around fires (maybe not a lot of dancing around fires), but my GP had exhausted a lot of stuff and I am exhausted. Coughing hard, often, makes you pretty exhausted.
He then scrolled through my CT. The nurse seemed to have a small giggle at the size of my nodules (that may not really have been the case, but they of course they DO work with real life lung cancer vs. these little guys), I almost felt inadequate, except that I don’t want large nodules. I don’t want any nodules… they really did have to dig around for them a bit. I tried to get an idea what part of my lung they were in (they didn’t mark quadrants in the report). The left one was sort of aligned with my tumor (ick) not sure where the right ones were… they also located my pnuemothorax after some scrolling. You could see what looked like scar tissue and a not happy area. What freaks me out is that there are so many of them (I have no idea if that is good or bad from a medical perspective).
Ultimately, he didn’t feel like anything on my CT was causing my cough. The nodules were too small, the pnuemothorax was too small (feelings of inadequacy talking again over here…). So we go back to the experimentation game of ruling stuff out. I am going on Advair along with a cough suppressant for 3 weeks and then an antacid for 3 weeks. Exploring asthma (again) or acid reflux (did you know reflux causes coughing?). If that doesn’t work we start digging some more… he described that there could be a nodule in my breathing area that the CT could have missed or damage to my esophagus from radiation that is causing reflux – both quite possible now that I visually saw the damage to my lung and remember them having to move my radiation path off of my esophagus within the first week because my throat was sore. The Pulmonologist even made a comment similar to the one rolling around in my brain about all of this popping up even though it was a whole 2 years later (I knew I liked him). Now I feel like I need to visit my radiation oncologist who I have been ignoring in my cycle of doctors visits because I feel like I have way too many doctors visits…
I asked what are we supposed to do about the nodules? He got a fairly serious look and essentially said that we watch them. Yay, my favorite, more lumpy things to monitor (that was my sarcastic tone). His plan is a 6 month CT to see if they get bigger although my oncology team had suggested a 3 month CT, but I see my oncology team within the next 3 months, so I can gather their take in the meantime (and I know my oncologist is getting the full update tomorrow when she gets back). So, for the time being, the 6 month CT is scheduled. They don’t seem to like to biopsy ones this small without some idea on how long they have been there and what they are doing. He had asked if I had met with my oncologist yet on all of this and I had noted that I had not.
So, in 3 weeks I get a lung x-ray to make sure my wee bitty lung collapse isn’t up to no good (the pulmonologist thinks it will go away on its own), and we switch meds. Hopefully by then my phantom cough has just gone away on its own.
My favorite part… As we walked out of the exam room the doctor mentioned everything being as “clear as mud.” I knew I liked him.
I may not have won the award I was a finalist for, but I am a winner everyday because of the awesome people I work with. These came after the ceremony with the note "You are a winner to us!!"
I am a pest. Pesty McPesterton right here (by the way, when you blog, there is an unwritten rule that you get to make up words). I was going to have a psychological meltdown today. I was hanging on by a thread or two… I did good-ish. -sigh-
I left 3 messages for the oncology nurses and then started to wonder why the nurses hadn’t called me back. They usually call me back so quickly when I leave a message (with an ALL CLEAR YAY!), but now they weren’t calling me back. To me this usually meant I was waiting for a doctor or nurse practitioner to call me… they tend to take a little bit longer (and my oncologist is not in town). Gaahhhhhh. I managed to stay so calm all weekend and I was 99% sure my cough and chest pain would just magically go away now that I had been scanned because everything was going to be normal. I think I can add up how many days of my life have been spent waiting for scan results… too many.
So the good news is, I have two lungs, they are in my chest and they fill with air ALMOST all of the way. Apparently I have something called a pneumothorax which was described at “miniscule apical pnuemothorax” on my left lung which means it is collapsed a teensy bit at the bottom (I think, I am not a medical professional, I use Dr. Google). Which is usually caused by a traumatic injury and I guess this little guy wasn’t around in my old CT (they compared the CT to my PET CT from 2011). It sounds like this is an injury from radiation based on the labs (and location). It is “an unusual appearance and not definitely mass like” (because that is like, science!). There is also some other indent or whatever that looks like radiation ouchies (I was warned they were going to get some of my lung and maybe some of my heart, now we see it I think…). Whether or not this is the cause of my chest pain and cough is yet to be officially determined since radiation was almost exactly 2 years ago. Happy Cancerversary to me on Thursday! 2 years from the last day of radiation.
I also have 5 teensy pulmonary nodules (all less than 5 mm). One next to the unhappy lung area noted above and four in lymph-node-like locations in my right lung. Cancer was on my left side, so they are mostly on my right…
The comparison did not show these nodules in my PET CT from years go, but the notes said that they could have been missed because they are so small and they weren’t looking as closely at my lungs, so who knows. They may have been there hanging out, maybe not, but they weren’t glowing back then I assume, since they were making me glow.
I am waiting to find out when I will have an appointment with a Pulmonologist at Huntsman who will decide if they can/will/want to biopsy and try and look at my “unusual” pnuemothorax. It sounds like they will at least CT again in 3 months (more things to monitor, yay). My oncologist gets back from traveling on Thursday and will also look everything over and we will see what she thinks we should do.
Luckily my Oncology NP sent me the actual lab reports because the report has me much calmer than the description sounded in my head non-physical-report (everyone loves an optimistic radiologist, as we know I have met the pessimistic ones, that just made me giggle… I think I am giddy from lack of sleep). Initial description essentially sent both Mike and I in a tailspin. I think we are calm-ish now.
So, I won’t lie, “nodules” was the word we really were trying to avoid on this report… but so far everything looks fairly optimistic. I want to go back to being pessimistic though, because I was being super optimistic my scan wouldn’t show any problems. This is why my pessimist and my optimist are always fighting.
So, last year I stuffed all of this extra money into my health savings account expecting to be scanned left and right and up and down and back and forth and that wasn’t really how it worked out. I had a couple of ultrasounds, a bone scan and one mighty fine year. Not needing the money was fine, except that account is “use it or lose it” so I lost it… this year I was wise and put just barely enough money in there for prescriptions. Haha. Just makes me laugh (we were able to double insure me mid way through treatment, so having two insurance companies picking up the tab certainly helps, just my planning sucks).
I have been keeping myself busy with bumpy lumpies, now it is time to look at the mess sitting underneath. Friday is my lung CT. 1 clear x-ray, 1 week of allergy medication, 2 rounds of antibiotics, 1 round of steroids, a clear asthma test and 2 weeks on an inhaler and I am still a ball full of cough-ness and fatigue (and sunshine, loads of sunshine and happiness). I didn’t push it (I was scared to), I followed up with my GP as she requested, and she felt this was the next course of action after my asthma test. Circling back with my oncology team they agreed and here we are.
Still waiting on those MRI results…
On a happier note, I find out if I won the cool award for women in technology that I was a finalist for on Thursday. Being a finalist was a super big honor, and I find out in front of 600 people which is a little scary. Wish me luck!
P.S. Catherine whom I love and adore has a Kickstarter going on and I think we should continue to help her surpass her original goal to fund her first novel. Read about it here or click on the image above.
Sometimes I just wonder what should be a big deal and what shouldn’t be a big deal and when I can relax. I guess I should always relax, stress isn’t good for you.
After my adventures last week I decided that I would make an appointment with my plastic surgeon to talk about the small revision I had been considering to my initial reconstructive surgeries (hey, he did a good job, but… you know… I have a part that I want evened out a little bit). The other reason I wanted to talk revision is I wanted to see about getting the lumps removed, oh, and I think I might have a leak in my implant. I have just been pretending to ignore it (or I have some fluid in there with the implant).
He was totally fine with the revision part, but told me I have to get my cough cleared up before surgery (I wasn’t actually planning on doing it in the next couple of months, so I BETTER not have this cough). He was less excited about removing the lumps. The skin is thin there, it was radiated, we still haven’t a clue what the lumps truly are… His instinct was that they are related to the surgery and where they attached the muscle inside everything. He did not feel like they were fat necrosis (which I guess they do remove all of the time for the sake of sanity, so I am not the only slightly neurotic post-cancer lumpy lady out there). I took along my mother for mental support (she was slightly miffed at me for not bringing her to my last appointment, I usually expect to be in and out and back to the office, adventure free, so emotional support isn’t usually a part of my appointment planning).
The plastic surgeon’s response was that we should REALLY take a good look at these lumps and then I can decide if I truly want them out. If I want them out, he will take them out, but that we should just really look at them very closely first (which translates to: you have had a bajillion surgical complications, you are thinking about going in there on a perfectly good looking reconstruction and chance messing it up, so make sure you really want to do this). I see his point.
A possible implant leak requires an MRI anyway.
Sooooo. Step 1 was another mammogram. You should have seen the look on the poor tech’s face when she realized she was going to be attempting to image me again… one week later… on the other “boob,” and it just didn’t work. I get it now. When you have breasts with implants, they get your breast tissue in there, not the implant. When you don’t have breast tissue, they got nothing but implant to take an image of… she tried. She really gave it a good try. She sort of got a bit of a picture of the muscle (which is what I have in there, which I am sure looks pretty odd when you are used to looking at breast tissue all day). They sent me back to the waiting room.
I got called in for an ultrasound. I exclaimed “again!” I guess I should have been less exclamatory, but you know… gah. This time I got a student first who was very nice and had no idea what he was looking at. I was worried I was going to have the same radiologist as I had last week, I did get the same one. Although this time he was very very pleasant (I do swear I caught him on a bad day last time… it was just odd).
He had spent some time looking at my ooolllldddddd images because he had a discussion with my mom about the DCIS I had which permanently freaks her out because you can’t see it on an ultrasound (but normally you can on a mammogram). He actually explained that they did see a lot of it in the early images (it shows up as calcifications). Part of the reason it is a little freaky is because we don’t fully know where all of the cancer was in my breast since there was more than the tumors identified in my breast and lymph node – there was an extensive amount of DCIS (which never included a measurement, just that word, “extensive” which to us means EVERYWHERE).
I calmly explained that after the appointment last week I was thinking about removing the unknown lumps. He gave them a good look and figured the MRI was a fine next step and suggested that they could carefully do a biopsy if that was what was decided after the MRI (he still stood his ground that they MRI is tricky and may not tell us any more than we know from the ultrasounds and tests done so far). It seems like they don’t look like scar tissue according to the radiologist and my plastic surgeon doesn’t think they are fat necrosis and no one thinks that they are cancer. The radiologist did find a dark round cyst/possible necrosis while digging around (I guess I am full of weird tissue things going on).
So now I have an MRI scheduled, which I needed to do anyway, but the whole thing is just making me tired and I am wondering how much I want to pursue and how much I just want to go back to watching and waiting. Having had two lung infections/colds/who-knows-what and bronchitis for the last 4 weeks hasn’t helped my energy level either… I am on my second round of antibiotics and an inhaler and now my lungs have me a little freaked out. We have a clean x-ray on them, but what do you do? I can’t decide if I should be annoying and bug my doctors (I tried to make an appointment while I was there today, which they mistook as me wanting to talk to the doctor “right now” – and her response delivered via a nurse was to go to my GP and get an inhaler – which I have already done and now I don’t feel like pushing it).
Oh, and this came in the mail (I am assuming that it goes with every abnormal mammogram, even if they go ahead and do the follow up right then):
So at what point am I being a vigilant patient and at what point am I just paranoid?
I feel like I need to take a chill pill and I am starting to feel annoying. No one wants to be the annoying patient, I prefer being the cool, calm, and collected and sometimes funny patient. The verdict is still very strong not cancer, and I am not strongly concerned that it is, I just somehow ended up with a little doubt that crept into my mind that maybe this process will put to rest (the lumps have always worried me a little). Maybe knowing what the lumps actually are will help, maybe I will drop it and we will never know. So now everything is as clear as mud, and I have a cough.
“I won’t be able to tell from an ultrasound if this is cancer or not cancer”
That is totally what I wanted to hear from the radiologist right before he does an ultrasound to check a lump.
I had my quarterly check up, not stressed, not one bit. I had my favorite purple smoothie in hand. I had had a cough thing going on that had been chest x-ray-ed antibiotics administered the previous week and that had been the only random thing weighing on my mind. I wasn’t expecting my doctor to find a good sized lump hiding under my implant on my noncancerous side. Quite frankly I was pretty embarrassed that I had not noticed this lump myself (very embarrassed, how the heck did I miss that one…?). She drew a big circle and figured we do the whole “check it because it is the right thing to do” and the rest of that appointment with her was just dandy.
I was grabbed for my visit with the mammogram/diagnostic crew and here is where it got weird.
I sat in the waiting room in my gown. Everyone got pulled in for their mammos and I waited and waited and waited and a tech grabbed me and pulled me in the room with a mammography machine, because she needed to ask me a quick question. She asked me where the lump was located. I showed her and she explained that the radiologist and my doctors (they had pulled my plastic surgeon into the discussion) were trying to decide if I needed a mammogram or an ultrasound.
What, what? A mammogram!? I thought I never needed one of those. I don’t have any real “boobs.” That was the ultimate “no boob” bonus, or so I thought…
She put me back in the waiting room and I got regular updates that they were still deciding, an hour passed. The tech eventually grabbed me for my second mammogram (I guess technically my third because I had two on my day of diagnosis). She made a kind of half attempt at the thing because I guess she didn’t know beforehand that I had an implant and that somehow changed everything (I guess she thought she was just putting in the flap, not the flap and implant). The lump was sitting up under the implant in my armpit area, so I have no idea how they would have gotten it into the machine anyway. I made jokes about supposed to be “getting out of these mammogram things” and she didn’t think I was that funny, but by now I wasn’t in the best mood, so maybe I just wasn’t very funny.
Once she made a quick attempt at getting an image they put me back in the waiting room.
I was eventually told they would go ahead and do an ultrasound and this is when the radiologist walked in and told me. “I won’t be able to tell if this is cancer or fat necrosis from an ultrasound, only from a mammogram.” He told me that they could do an MRI, but that fat necrosis also absorbs dye just like cancer and can end up looking the same too. The only definitive way to tell was a mammogram (I got the sense that this was the argument he had been having with my doctors for the past hour). I asked him if I should go back in and try to get it in the mammogram machine and he just kind of stared at me.
I looked back at him and a couple of tears started to form in the corners of my eyes.
Telling me you can’t tell is saying it “might” be cancer and 30 minutes ago I was 99.99% certain there was no possible way I had cancer clear on the other side of my body underneath an implant in a breast that doesn’t have any breast tissue…. but now… now you can’t tell the difference?
My first response is that we have some major issues in that case because I have a diagnosis of fat necrosis on my cancerous side, and no one has ever done a mammogram over there, so maybe we need to go shove that one in the machine too just to be sure (hey, I was all about the mammograms at this point). I asked if he would just biopsy the darn thing and he told me that it was too close to the implant to risk it when the chance of it being cancer was so low. He eventually decided that it wasn’t really a lump because it only looked like a lump from one angle and when palpitated it didn’t feel like cancer (because now we can just feel cancer? Although it is a soft lump and didn’t really feel like the cancerous lump…). Which, again, fine, I didn’t expect it to be, but this wasn’t exactly how I thought he would go about it.
When he looked at the cancerous side he started to try to convince me the lump was a valve in my implant. There is no valve in my implant?
Him: “It is saline right”
Me: “Nope, that is silicone”
Then it was the fact that the implant was against the skin without any tissue and not a lump at all… he wasn’t trying very hard… (you can really feel those lumps with your fingertips, they are definitely there, and big). When he got the lump on screen it also did not have “cancer like qualities.” Which it formed practically magically overnight when it did form, so I never had expected it really to be cancer either, but now I am a little freaked out because apparently you can’t tell from an ultrasound..?
He proceeded to tell me that I really didn’t have much to be concerned about and did he properly address all of my concerns? Wait what? I just said yes, arguing wasn’t going to get me anywhere and he clearly didn’t want to be looking at me in the first place and trying to convince me there was a valve in my silicone implants rather than a lump in there had sort of impacted my opinion of his medical expertise today already.
The Huntsman has a lot of amazing staff, this is not my normal experience at all. So please don’t let it impact your opinion. I think I caught someone on a bad day… I have bad days, we all have bad days. Maybe he was just trying to be more straightforward with me than the previous radiologists, but that is a little eepy.
I had been going back and forth on having a small revision on my right side to take in a little extra flappy flap over there and see if they could go in and remove these lumps on the cancerous side because they seem to be a never ending source of fun. I am thinking more about it lately and may explore that option sooner than I had planned.
This all left me just a wee bit frazzled.
P.S. I don’t really think any of them are really cancer, so no freaking out. This was just a headache of a day.
No, this is not me, just showing what tingling spidey senses may look like.
I don’t know why this stuff stresses me out so much (I lie, I actually know why, but I sometimes wish that this wasn’t a roller coaster I had to ride, but that is life after cancer treatment. Watching, waiting, worrying and being thankful for every moment). I didn’t sleep at all last night, I didn’t feel like I was actively worrying (I started to stress out a bit more the past few days while I was waiting to get my appointment). When the nurse called to tell me when my appointment was I verified that I had had Mike verify that the lump was in fact there and that I wasn’t completely crazy – she agreed that I wasn’t completely crazy, but maybe just a little crazy in other ways… oh, she knows me so well.
I went in for an ultrasound today on my little lump. The radiologist poked around and identified that it did feel like a lymph node (which it does), but that it does not LOOK like a lymph node with cancer in it. He felt that the lump did not look like cancer and it was hard to get it to show up on the ultrasound. When he did see it he didn’t directly identify what it was, most likely a scar or even more fat necrosis, but that he wasn’t openly worried about it. My mom thinks it is about 2 mm (which is pretty tiny), it was just odd because the placement and shape felt lymph-node-ish.
He told me to check on it every two weeks and to come back if my spidey senses are tingling and they will look at it again.
So I have 3 quiet months until my next appointment as long as I don’t get bitten by an irradiated spider, not that I haven’t had sufficient radiation exposure (still waiting to get those darn super powers, I refuse to give up!).
For those subscribed to my blog. I am probably going to branch out and write more about going through treatment, advice, tips and tricks etc (like my post on taking care of a mastectomy patient). Writing is soothing for me at times, so I will continue to write and update what life is like “on the other side” of breast cancer treatment. Please feel free to unsubscribe if that is content that does not appeal to you.
I got a phone call this week reminding me about my appointment the next day with my surgical oncologist (Valentine’s Day appointment anyone?). Appointment!? I admit that I had not added the appointment to my Outlook calendar. If it isn’t in my calendar, it doesn’t exist (my calendar is kind of scary these days, I would kill for a day without any meetings). I didn’t realize it had been 3 months already!
My mind has evolved from thinking about cancer regularly to random moments of reflection on some of the events related to my cancer treatment. As time goes on I am certainly thinking about it less and I can’t remember when most of my cancer anniversaries are, I would have to look them up, but frankly I don’t want to keep track of them. Two years have passed since my bilateral mastectomy. The daily reminder (scars) don’t even really bother me all that much anymore except now and then pondering another minor surgery someday to remove the lumps in left side and take down some of the latissimus bulk from the right side.
I waited in the waiting room for a little while, busy day up at the good ‘ol Huntsman Cancer Institute. I was surrounded by lots of chatty people, but wasn’t feeling very chatty. I was tired, I had had a particularly long week at work and probably would have moved my appointment had I realized it was coming up. I just sat with my handy dandy iPad and answered emails.
Once they took me back to the room, this visit’s medical resident came in with nurse Vicki. The resident found 4 lumps in her exploration. 3 were known by me, the 4th was a bit of a surprise. When my surgeon came in, she talked to the resident about the 3 obvious lumps, that I think are fat necrosis. She then felt deep in my armpit for the lymph node lump that the resident had reported. My surgical oncologist actually missed the lump by about an inch when she checked (it was more on the side of my breast, just over an inch from where I had a positive node). I didn’t push it at the time, but when I got to work after my appointment I realized I should have probably had her specifically check that spot. When I got home later that evening I had a chance to check for what the resident was talking about. I found a round lump.
I wanted to just avoid it and deal with it when I had my next check up in 3 months, but no one would let me (something about not being able to ignore lumps in circumstances like mine, I really didn’t feel like getting that first one checked out… and look where that landed me ). When I called, the nurse felt like I should monitor it for a week, and if the lump was still there they would schedule an ultrasound. I have had lumps before that went away. I think my lymph nodes like to get a little rambunctious. My pessimist and my optimist are fighting.
The optimist in me:Bah! Like there is any way some cancer cells survived in my lymph nodes after that beating from chemo and radiation.
The pessimist in me:OMG, that is right next to the lymph node that had a tumor. Lovely.
My optimist: Well, if it is, at least it is local and can be treated more easily. Nothing I haven’t been through before… but it isn’t going to be anything because I have had some weird lymph node lumps before.
Not sure who is going to win. I have been trying not to make a ridiculous big deal over the whole thing because every time I make a big deal it turns out to be nothing to get excited about. Of course, when I have tried not to make a big deal I find out it is serious. So I may let my pessimist win for just a bit. We will see in a week…
My friend sent me this video. Don’t watch it unless you have 15 minutes to shed some tears. It is eery some of the similarities (I had 5 surgeries and lost my expander due to infection). I lost it at the part where she mentioned being diagnosed the day before her birthday (this may be somewhat graphic for some):
So.. I have been pretty good about sticking to a routine of doing yoga or pilates for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. Which has been great. It has elevated my mood and I feel much stronger. The part that has made me sad is that I put on FOUR POUNDS. I managed to maintain my weight throughout treatment, but I suddenly found myself gaining weight. The weight gain is most likely muscle (I was MUCH weaker than I thought). Due to this kind of exercise, my back is stronger, and I don’t feel like I could pull it out at any moment. I discovered some muscle weakness because of my reconstruction surgery. I am not able to do certain moves (push ups and one that is essentially the same thing but you’re body faces outward and you hold yourself up with your arms). I have built some strength in this area, but I think that this weakness is likely surgery related. I may eventually convince myself to go see a physical therapist to learn how to compensate for the muscle weakness.
Pilates doesn’t burn that many calories (but you feel excellent after you do it). I am battling the battle of belly bulge (I blame Tamoxifen, but you can blame it on me getting older. It is entirely up to you!). So I determined that I need to add more cardio back into my life. I gave away my old elliptical to a friend because my mom has a nice one that I plan on moving into that space. I just need to go get it (and right now I have more space in my home office for pilates). I hate love cardio…
My friend showed me a really cool device her husband bought her in her adventures of getting more fit. It was the coolest gadget I have seen in awhile. It is a pedometer that turns walking, running and doing stairs into a bit of a game. After so many steps they will donate money to one of three charities. It also has a “Farmville” type of game where you can play after you earn points exercising (an island where you need “energy” to grow trees). You can compete with your friends that have the same device (extra points for beating their bests). It just sounded cute and I am a gadget junkie. I am also willing to come up with something/anything that will motivate me to fit more cardio into my life. So I just picked one up today. It is called a Striiv, with accessories it is about $130 (so not cheap), but I imagine I will get my money’s worth. Mike has one too and the competition IS ON. We will see!
The Breast Cancer Survival Manual
So I guess this is going to be a bit of a product-ey post. The publisher for The Breast Cancer Survival Manual sent me a copy of the book for free. It didn’t include any requirement that I write about it (but they probably hoped that I would). I did read the entire book within an afternoon (so I guess that isn’t tough reading, but I like medical jargon-y stuff).
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer several friends bought me books which I appreciated. I have Lance Armstrong’s book (I know there is all sorts of drama with him these days, but I still think he put together a pretty darn good organization that does a lot for a lot of people). A book on nutrition for cancer treatment. I have Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Suvivor’s Soul and a few more.
I know several women who had written memoires on their experiences. I probably should get around to reading them one of these days! I read a bit less about cancer and a LOT more about marketing in my spare time lately.
I thought the manual was a good book for a woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is packed full of medical information in one place. It isn’t exactly a “survival” manual, it is more of a “understanding” manual. I found a lot of similar information by spending many many hours searching “Doctor Google,” but this book was a much more reputable source than most.
For someone like me (done with acute treatment) it did have a couple of tidbits that I found interesting (I have some questions about my tumor and it’s makeup beyond what I can find in my lab reports). The book is written to help you understand the types of breast cancer cells and what treatments may be effective for those kinds of cells. The book guides a breast cancer patient through the decision making process of selecting a doctor, getting second opinions and making medical decisions in the whirlwind of a diagnosis.
Disclosure: All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something I get a small commission. No, I am not going to get rich off of linking to Amazon, but I figure if I am linking to a product why not use an affiliate link. If I actually make a few bucks I am most likely going to donate it to a charity anyhow, because that is how I “roll” (I can’t convince Mike that I am can totally sound gangster, but he doesn’t seem to believe me *sigh*).
Yes, that is me climbing about 8 or 9 years ago. No you can't see the ground in this photo.
I have been thinking a lot lately about where I focus my energy. Work is always a main focus, but beyond work a woman needs her hobbies.
Hobbies change with interest, age and ability. Once upon a time I was an avid rock climber and I spent 5+ days a week working my way up some vertical (and sometimes horizontal) rock faces. The love of my life (aka Mike) turned out to not be a huge fan of heights, and in turn rock climbing (although he bought us both a membership to a climbing gym for several months as a gift to me and made a genuine effort – it was the best present ever), was not in our future (which is also why I no longer fit into size 0 jeans… I can’t believe I ever fit into size 0 jeans. This semi-menopausal-who-knows-what state from Tamoxifen certainly makes weight loss a wee bit more work).
Sports have never really been my thing beyond climbing (I am uncoordinated and don’t react fast, slow and careful worked for me in climbing. Plus I seem to pull out my back if I look at anything heavy sideways (lifting 5 gallons of paint Sunday was smart, SMRT). My husband loves video games. I sort of picked up video games at one point in time. Which is fun, but I find them to be stressful, thus I don’t play them much anymore.
My hobbies these days consist of photography (not so great at this) and cooking (so-so, I give it a grade of needs improvement – you can make fun of my cooking adventures on my cooking blog I actually have a few recipes on there that I really like, so I am a little less shy about it). I can gauge my energy level based on my cooking, not so much my photography (I get enthusiastic and then behind). This past week my energy has been up (it may help that I am attempting Pilates, I say attempting because I am working really hard at beginner stuff). Beginner Pilates looks nothing like real Pilates, I made an attempt at the real thing yesterday and was mildly panicked by the pain in my muscles and the crazy stuff I couldn’t quite do. Pilates should be good for building my back strength back up (still avoiding physical therapy… you know, more doctors…).
Today I went in for an ultrasound of my uterus (not your usual ultrasound of the uterus, the nonbaby kind). The tech had me giggling in fits because I was a little surprised about what the ultrasound would involve, she let me know that she has never lost anyone during this procedure. I survived… sort of. Driving back I realized that I have had tests for at least 3 additional kinds of cancers this year, yeesh. I am addicted to the hospital or something… (more likely my doctors are overly cautious). This one I didn’t lose an ounce of sleep over, not one once. So I guess I am learning about this whole “worry” and “overstressing” and such. Yay me!
I had the ultrasound because the doctor didn’t feel like she got enough of the right kind of tissue sample in the biopsies and wanted to do an ultrasound just to cover all of her bases. My thyroid test came back normal, I am not anemic and my uterus is completely healthy as far as they can see (apparently it is about 2 CM longer than they expected, but big is good right?). So, maybe last month was just a bit of a fluke. The only time I have ever done that was when I was coming out of menopause, so who knows.
Normal is good.
Now enjoy a photo of gummy bears on my desk that I took trying out my new camera (this camera was my 5th anniversary present from Mike, a camera that takes photos you can change the focus on, they are called “living photos” – click on the gummy bears, the monitor, the keyboard and watch it refocus… not that I was eating gummy bears… or anything like that…):