I have spent the last two years making a serious point of avoiding reading about Tamoxifen side effects and complaints about Tamoxifen (trust me, there are many out there). You could almost call me a professional Tamoxifen-reader-avoider. While I was in treatment, I just didn’t want to know what I was in for for the next 5 years. Rumor has it possibly now 10 years based on a new study. Ugh…
So my larger emotional ups and downs can directly be traced to shortly after I started Tamoxifen. I thought it was my ending treatment and not being sure how to face “real life” again (which it could still be), or it is a constant hormone imbalance. Hormones, how do I love thee, oh my long lost hormones… When you are in a consistent state of hormone mix up you truly forget what it is like to have all of those lovely addictive hormones coursing through your veins. I had a taste of the difference when I had to pause Tamoxifen treatment while we figured out what was causing my dizzy spells (how many times can YOU fit the word “hormones” in one paragraph?).
So what do you do when you are having mood swings from hormonal imbalances? You buy a house. The right answer is… that you buy a house.
I threatened to do it last year and talked myself out of it. Prices are starting to go up and I don’t think interest rates are too far behind, so now felt like the right time. That, and I was having a discussion with a friend, where I admitted that the reason I was scared of buying a new house was because I was scared of the financial burden if my cancer came back. This made me come to the realization that cancer can’t rule my life, I can’t live like that, I won’t live like that. So, we went house shopping. We didn’t know that we would find the one that checked off all of the right boxes, but we did, 3 days after we started looking.
Mike is excited, I am excited, everyone is excited. Except now I need to buy more furniture because the new house is much bigger, but that is going to have to wait…
I am seeing experienced professionals on this emotional imbalance topic to see what we can do to get me more regulated. I think an important part of the healing process is knowing when to ask for help, and I asked for help.
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):
Wow, what an adventure going to Huntsman! By the way, I think my favorite nurse may read my blog. Hi Vicki! When I stopped by Huntsman she seemed to know I had been having a tough-er time this weekend, I couldn’t figure out why she might know until I thought about it later… My surgeons and crew have my blog address, they refer people to it on occasion that want to know about the reconstruction I had (even though I had complications, gaaahhh, still happy I had reconstruction).
So I want to note that Operation Mandi’s Birthday Wish was inspired by Dov Siporin (big love Dov), I am not nearly into hijinks so much, but he visits patients and is fairly well known in the cancer community here in Utah for his humor and good spirit. You can read about him here and he has a YouTube channel here. Ms. Tofurkey in the news piece is non-other than the famous Michelle who contacted me shortly after I was diagnosed and was my pen pal, she helped me through the toughest parts of my journey. She runs an organization called Heal Courageously, you can read about her here.
We started upstairs in the surgical wing and dropped off blankets for the patients. I didn’t want to disturb anyone (my aunt had carolers, but my singing would NOT create be conducive to a healing environment). We then stopped by and visited the families waiting for loved ones in surgery (there were quite a few). The staff sent out one of the family members of a patient that was waiting in the surgery prep area (I have many many photos of us getting giddy and goofy with me in gowns waiting for me to actually go into surgery, so hopefully we helped them pass the time). We were able to send her back with a blanket, fuzzy socks, games and all sorts of other goodies.
One of the family members waiting for a patient asked me a bit shocked if it was o.k. to ask how old I was (I forget I am still a wee bit on the younger side for having been a breast cancer patient). I told her proudly that I was 33 as of today (birthdays bring new meaning, even if mine is tied emotionally to this whole cancer thing). My mom would typically explain my story, I was more focused on giving out lotion, blankets and chapstick instead of explaining why.
The staff was pretty excited about the big candy basket! Most of the clinic waiting rooms were fairly empty, but we found a few people along the way to shower with goodies. We then headed to the infusion room which WOW, the new infusion room at the Huntsman is huge. Before the main room had maybe 12 chairs and we all kind of sat and stared at each other, the new one has more private sections (I liked yapping at people to pass the time, so I am not sure if I would have liked the privacy more). We were a little overwhelming as a group, so my friend Nita recommended we split up and spread out. I met some really sweet people.
We visited patients and gave out most of the rest of the blankets and goodies there. We visited the radiation waiting room and one gentleman pretended to be sleeping (totally what I would do if I saw a bunch of rambunctious people with baskets and goodies). We left a few leftover items that we left with receptionists to hand out.
I want to send a HUGE thank you to the many people that sent money, love, good wishes and enjoyed the randomness of this last minute project. I was touched by how many people participated.
Honestly, after I visited the Huntsman my anxiety was gone. We turned my frown upside down (and did the same for hopefully quite a few patients that day).
The blanket I received when I finished chemo, that someone donated to the Huntsman.
I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster this week. Last year I was occupied with surgery and still building up strength. This year I have had a deep gnawing feeling in the bottom of my gut. My birthday and the New Year is now tied to cancer in my brain and I can’t figure out how to untie the knot. As much as I want to say I have been fine I have been having panic attacks and have relived the emotional turmoil I felt when I was diagnosed several times this week. This is insane to me because I have been able to tuck cancer back into a corner of my brain comfortably with it only peeking out now and the and it came back with a vengeance. I am sure this will pass once the days have gone by. I really had thought most of that was behind me.
I guess this particular strange cancer anniversary is the one that is going to cause me a little more stress and a little less celebration. The 30th of December marks two years from the day I was diagnosed. I was discussing how I had been feeling with a friend and we decided that the other milestones feel more celebratory because they are completions of treatments to kill the cancer, this anniversary is the one that started it all.
I came up with a random idea on what I could do since my brain has started to be preoccupied with cancer. Why not give cancer patients in treatment gifts on my birthday/New Years Eve? Why not try to turn my frown upside down. I was trying to think of what I could give, so I asked for suggestions from friends. I got a pretty good list. I took the gift cards and money I received for Christmas and went shopping. I also had some help from friends and family sent money to aid in my shopping adventures (thanks helpful friends and family)! I stocked up on a lot of goodies. I also spammed updated everyone on Facebook while I got things ready.
Mike picked up a bunch of fleece blankets and I sewed hope charms that I had bought when I started chemo to make bracelets. I made the blankets because I love my Hope blanket I got when I finished chemo. Although I am not nearly that crafty, so I went with a simpler approach.
I filled two baskets with candy. I filled up other baskets with lotion, hand sanitizer, card games, blank journals/notepads, pens, pencils, mittens, hats, fuzzy socks, puzzle books, Sudoku and more. I was going to make baskets with items together, but I figured it may be more fun to let people just pick items out that they would like.
Fleece blankets are a steal in after Christmas sales!
Sewing on the charms.
The finished product. 33 hope blankets.
Candy, blankets and goodies.
One of the baskets
I may pick up a few more items in the morning, but everything is ready to go. Family and friends are meeting at my house in the morning and we will head over and give out the gifts. My mom called the hospital today and they seemed o.k. with my last minute idea and I have to call in the morning. I figure worst case scenario the volunteers will give out the goodies.
I have no idea why, but I am nervous! I will post more after. Thank you everyone that has helped out and thanks for humoring me.
Kristi Harrison is 22 years old and from the UK. She wrote me and told me about a project that she is working on for her friend who is battling stage IV breast cancer. She set up a foundation called Life Changes Foundation, they are starting fundraising in January 2013 (they are currently working on a website, for now she is communicating via their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/lifechangesfoundation).
Her current project is called ‘Dear 14 Year Old Me’. This is a handwritten letter project where they asked participants to write a letter to their 14 year old self. I wrote my letter. I didn’t over think it before I wrote it, but now that I sent it in I am thinking about it more.
What would you really tell your 14 year old self? I don’t think I would ever tell myself that I was going to have cancer. Seems selfish? Maybe… if you live life with a day looming ahead of you that will cause you a lot of heartache and make you really sick, would you warn yourself? Would you stop yourself from making stupid mistakes? From your most embarrassing moment? I figure it is a bit like the Butterfly Effect. One small change takes you away from who you become. Thus my letter to self (ok, I tell myself to go buy stock, a little less altruistic, but it wouldn’t be me without a little silly mixed in):
I don’t know if I would really want anything to change about my life. I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes, still do, but those are the pieces and parts that have made me into who I am today. Do I think I could be someone better? Perhaps, but I need to be happy with being me. Do I strive to be a better person? Absolutely.
I work in nonprofit higher education because it fulfills a need in me to be a part of change and knowing I help make a difference in many people’s lives. I am on the board of an organization that influences women to get careers in STEM and supports women in technology. I plan on getting more involved with local charities in the coming year and I finally passed the one year mark that allows me to volunteer at the cancer hospital once I can squeeze it into my schedule. This is hopefully just the tip of iceberg Mandi.
This makes me think more about what I can do in my future to help the lives of others, rather than what I would really change about my past.
Coincidentally, I came across an article earlier this evening that addressed the topic that was already on my mind (for those sensitive to serious language, don’t read it, it has very strong language) 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. Although I fully agree with this article, there are way too many people focused on what life did to them rather than what they can do to improve lives for those around them — or making the small changes that will help them become a better person.
But here’s what everyone needs to know, and what many of you can’t accept:
“You” are nothing but the fruit.
Nobody cares about your dirt. “Who you are inside” is meaningless aside from what it produces for other people.
He challenges everyone:
So how about this: one year. The end of 2013, that’s our deadline. Or a year from whenever you read this. While other people are telling you “Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!” I’m going to say let’s pledge to do anything — add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people.
But the key is, I don’t want you to focus on something great that you’re going to make happen to you (“I’m going to find a girlfriend, I’m going to make lots of money …”). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.
I am game. Are you?
I would also love to see some letters from ladies I know. If you would like Kristi’s contact information shoot me an email (my email address is on my About page).
One thing that I have learned about the breast cancer community is that women and families come together in every valiant and selfless way possible. It helps me know that there is a lot of good in the world.
It has been a whirlwind of a month! I had another trip scheduled to New York City just a week after hurricane Sandy hit. They managed to get the conference center ready in time and the conference wasn’t cancelled so we opted to go ahead and go on the trip (also hopefully helping the NYC economy). What is funny is that I always seem to have travel mishaps when I go to NYC, but this time they just didn’t phase me, I sort of expected things to be a bit of an adventure!
It took 3 hours to get from the Newark airport into Manhattan. We were going to take the Lincoln Tunnel, but our driver opted to take the Washington Bridge to avoid the hour plus wait for the tunnel. Once we got to the bridge we found that a light pole had fallen across the bridge and we had to go all of the way back to the Lincoln Tunnel. We then had to wait the hour wait (after the two hour detour). The poor driver felt so awful he refused the tip, but finally took it after some coaxing (luckily it was a flat rate fare, so no meter ticking in the background).
The day after we arrived snow started to fall. The city was hit with a Nor’easter. Many people on the islands, New Jersey and lower Manhattan were still without power. I watched the snow fall and hoped that many were able to get somewhere warm.
When we flew back Utah was having a record snowstorm and the plane couldn’t get clearance to land. We ended taking an exciting detour to Boise to get gas. We then turned around and came back to Salt Lake City to land at about 3 AM. Needless to say, I had the adventure that I expected! I did manage to check off two items on my “list” (I don’t call it a bucket list, just “THE list”). I went to my first Broadway Show (Jersey Boys) and I made a little shopping stop on 5th Avenue for another item on THE list.
I find these days that I am a little less responsible with money than I used to be (but not horribly irresponsible, I don’t believe in spending money we don’t have). I live a wee bit more in the now, rather than focusing on saving everything for tomorrow. It is definitely a shift for me as I was always more into saving and planning. I was always holding off because I could do or buy something later. I do have to be careful though, it is pretty easy to get caught up in “nowness.” We have gone back and forth on buying a new home, for now we are holding off. We like being able to afford experiences and fun things over having more house right now. Money is going into savings until we feel more comfortable about making a big purchase.
Cherry pie from my grandma. With hearts <3.
I had my quarterly checkup on the 16th of November. My oncologist felt like none of my little ailments were breast cancer related (you really feel like a hypochondriac when you go in and list every twinge). I am never sure how to update people on how my appointments go since there are no scans involved. I just figure that I continue to be NED (no evidence of disease) when we don’t have any concerns to pursue. Year 2-3 are the years that recurrence tends to be the most predominant. I am moving into that time period now. I will continue to have quarterly checkups for the next bit until they decide to switch me to every 6 months and eventually yearly and then who knows!
Within a week of flying to New York my little brother Dereck and I packed our bags and drove up to Oregon to visit my grandma and my grandpa. There have been some concerns about my grandpa’s health and they asked my little brother to drag me up there to see them (sad that I have to be dragged, but I have been a busy busy bee). It was good to spend some time relaxing (which means eating nonstop, grandma sure knows how to keep us well fed) and playing card games (that is what we do in my family, play games, and I kept winning, muahahahahahaha). It was really nice to spend some quality time with my grandparents (and my little brother of course).
We headed home so we can do our family turkey dinners. I took Thanksgiving week off of work, so I have been relaxing and playing catch up on errands and things that need to be done around the house along with spoiling Mike rotten for his birthday. My energy was still not quite back up to normal last year for his birthday so I tried to make it extra special this year.
This time of year there are always many things to be thankful for. It is a time to reflect on how important family is and that life is about the experiences and enjoying the moments with those that we love.
I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night.
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*).
So here it is! I am one year “out” of acute breast cancer treatment. September 19th, 2011 marks my final radiation appointment. The big stuff is now a year behind me and I could even volunteer at the hospital now if I want to (apparently they won’t let you volunteer unless you are a year or more out of treatment). I have just over 4 years left on Tamoxifen. I am not sure if they calculate everything based on how long you have been out of treatment or from date of diagnosis. I may just have to ask!
I went back through my photos to see what photos I took during radiation, I was surprised, yet not surprised by how few there were. I recorded a lot of my chemo treatment by taking photos, but very little of my life during radiation. Life consisted of waking up early to be the first to get zapped (ok, the machine makes a loud zapping noise, but it doesn’t feel like a zap), slathering on the Aquaphor (Amazon link) after, layering 2-3 shirts because I was fairly VERY greasy from the Aquaphor, heading to work, coming home and pretty much crawling into bed. My skin is completely healed and I only have a few spots that look permanently “tanned,” but that was mostly in my armpit where I seemed to react the most to the radiation, which people don’t see that often. I barely notice the radiation tattoos and the only people that really notice them know what they are looking for.
For some reason radiation was almost harder for me than chemo, but I stubbornly worked as much as was humanly possible, and I was the first appointment at 7:30 AM. I am not a morning person, so I was dragging my tired carcass out of bed super early so that radiation didn’t interrupt my workday. Last year my average bedtime was between 8-9 PM (ok, maybe 7 PM some nights…). I always wanted Mike to come to bed, but obviously he wasn’t tired, so he opted to watch every single Star Trek the Next Generation episode ever made on Netflix from start to finish (he set up a TV in the bedroom early on in my treatment in attempt to get me to stay in bed). I slept better with him nearby, and all of that sleeping on my back made me snore. I found that Star Trek was also great sleeping material (Captain Picard’s voice made a great lullaby). 178 total episodes. Mike met his goal (yes, we spent a lot of time sitting home last year), it did take quite some time for him to get there!
Wowee. It is one whole year later! My most recent news is that I got a promotion at work which is super exciting. My title changed, but my actual day to day job did not (maybe it will, you never know). This was a huge accomplishment. The company has gone from 260ish employees when I started to over 1,800ish today. What I was doing by myself 6 years ago now involves a team of 9 employees (including myself), the workload is much bigger of course. My team doubled in size last year. Interviewing potential employees in the middle of chemo is another story for another day. Haha. Sometimes I feel like I have my heart and soul invested in my job.
I have cut back the amount of daily cancer exposure I receive. I have hid organizations in my Facebook feed and most of the bloggers I follow have slowed down posting to a more similar pace as I (or have stopped posting). So I catch up on everyone a little less often (when less people are in the thick of things we spend more time living and less time writing), but love to hear how things are going when they do update!
My body is behaving a bit more and I am working on pain pilates. It has done wonders for my back and I actually really enjoy it, so I think I found “my thing.” I didn’t quite realize how atrophied my muscles had become until I started doing the beginner moves (I have been using this App on my iPad (iTunes) to learn, I have downloaded a couple similar applications, but the beginner moves in that one made it so I could work my way up to full workouts and intermediate/advanced within a couple of weeks). The one thing that is always very apparent in cancer research is how important it is to exercise for your health and for your well being. Mike says I am much more cheerful now that I have been exercising regularly again and I feel like I am sleeping better. Now if only I started losing those “menopause” inches around my waistline I will maybe be even more cheerful!
In case you missed it, here is the video I made to celebrate finishing treatment last year. I have trouble watching it now (in fact I didn’t watch it), but it was still a great experience for me to make it and “close the door” on active treatment. It was probably the first (and last) personal video I have ever made for YouTube.
We had a great time in Maui! We got back early this morning (or late last night). Mike won the trip at work earlier this year, but we had to wait until later this year so that I had adequate vacation time to go. We drove the road to Hana, visited various towns including Lahaina, Wailea and Kehei. We rented a Jeep so we spent a lot of time just driving around exploring. Here are some photos:
Sunset from our balcony.
Us at a Luau. I am not sure what my hair was up to. It was a little windy.
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…):