I'm quite delayed in writing this. It's at least weeks, if not months over due. The fact is, I'm verklempt.
It's been nearly a year, actually 11 months to the day, since I got my diagnosis of breast cancer. Since then, while life has taken many twists and turns, and while I'd rather just erase the whole of last year--you will never hear me say that I'm thankful for getting cancer--the support you, my friends, both in my local community as well as those of you non-local, has been awesome. I can honestly say that friendships have been deepened and strengthened.
I can't even begin to explain or describe it all. Suffice it to say, people have been wonderful. More wonderful than words can express. In fact, I don't really even know where to start.
For months, people provided us meals, transportation, house cleaning, and other niceties, such as hand crafted soap and special oils for healing skin. Friends have helped us financially and emotionally. Near strangers have sent notes of encouragement. Colleagues have taught classes for me when I've been unable to teach. Friends have made hats for my freakishly large noggin, and provided me with enough scarves to allow me to dance the dance of the seven veils. We've received bread in the mail, gift cards, and funds for me to attend a yoga retreat. Friends from a distance helped with Christmas gifts, and local friends have put miles on their carss and spent oodles of time in parking lots, waiting rooms, and doctors' offices. I'm sure I'm leaving something out. Please don't be offended. Read ahead about my memory...
Like I said, I'm verklempt.
So, I'll simply end with an update of what's taken place, what's happening now, and what the future holds.
Six rounds of chemo (herceptin, carboplatin, taxotere) every three weeks from August-the end of November.
Bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders (stage one of reconstruction) December
Four rounds of chemo (Adriamyacin, cytoxin) every two weeks Jan-March.
Six weeks of radiation, daily, March-May.
11 herceptin infusions, every three weeks, March-? (I have 6 left)
All in all, I made it through all of that relatively (?) unscathed. The doctors all seem to believe I "handled it well".
Not counting the absent hair and faux boobs, I guess I did, all things considered. Several of the drugs are cardio-toxic, including the herceptin, but my most recent echo-cardiogram was fine.
The radiation most likely did some heart and lung damage, but I'm running nearly daily and am in the best shape I've been in in over 20 years. I completed a 5K race today, as a matter of fact.
I've lost 30 or so pounds and managed to keep it off, while most women who undergo breast cancer treatment gain weight.
My hemoglobin is nearly normal, or at least up to nearly double digits, which is an improvement. Having a nearly sufficient amount of O2 in your blood can never be appreciated quite enough.
I have a fair amount of peripheral neuropathy, leaving the front third of each foot nearly numb, having shooting pains in my feet (but that's an improvement over the pains that had been in my legs and ankles for months), and numbness on the tips of my fingers. At least that doesn't seem to slow down my typing, but it does make turning pages a bit challenging.
I've also noticed a fairly significant change in cognitive function, but theoretically, that should lessen over the next year or so.
I get to start the rounds to all the doctors again this month to find out if there has been any permanent damage to other systems: kidneys, pancreas, liver, adrenal functions, etc. Hopefully, I won't have any progressive cardiac or lung damage in the future.
Otherwise, with the exception of some fairly significant fatigue at times, which is supposed to diminish over the next 11 months.....
I feel great.
Really, I do.
I don't have the energy I used to, which coupled with the cognitive changes, means that things I used to take for granted (and still never accomplished very competently) such as meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation are a real challenge. As is keeping up with deadlines and remembering things that need to be remembered....like the fact that I'd signed my youngest child up for the STARS program this summer, yet have never once sent him.....Household chores are sketchily accomplished, at best.
Yet, one advantage is that I DON"T REMEMBER that I"VE FORGOTTEN THINGS.
So, if I forget to fix dinner, oh well, I'll forget that I forgot eventually.
And one good part of fatigue is also apathy. I don't care if the bathroom sink is gnarly. And as soon as I'm away from it, I forget it's gross.
So, in general all is good.
As for the future? I'm scheduled to have the next stage of my reconstruction done the Friday before Thanksgiving.
I've delayed it for several reasons, one important one is psychological. Right now, I feel good, and I want to continue to feel good for awhile. But most importantly is a medical reason....I don't deal with anesthesia so well. Add anesthesia and its potential side effects to my cognitive changes, and no one thought it would be a good thing to expose me to more anesthesia than necessary. If I wait until November to do my reconstruction, the plastic surgeon can remove my port, saving me from having to be anesthetized for that surgery as well. Two for the price of one!
Hopefully, that will be the total end of it all...
My family has held up fairly well. As well as can be expected when faced with a wife and mother's mortality and sickness. It has been a rough year, but I think no one has been permanently harmed.
Nothing will be the same again, but a few of the boys' friends have really come through for them, hanging out, being highly supportive, not being creeped out by a bald, sick mom. They even invited me to coach their indoor soccer team two sessions this winter, and were quite understanding on the nights when I just couldn't do it.
Tynan was quite the sport about going to school, even though he didn't like it much at all. Aidan ended up rather liking school, especially socially. He'll be going back, although BGHS isn't the best fit for him. Tynan will probably be home next year for fifth grade. Nathan will be mostly at the university next year.
Louis has been home a lot, which has been a big help, but it would be a bigger help if he had a job he could go to :) However, as long as he's home, he keeps himself busy and is almost as good as having a wife.
But if anyone knows of a traditional housewife we could use or a job for my husband, any leads would be greatly appreciated.
Anyway, thank you very much, friends and loved ones, for helping us get to this point and still be capable of humor.
We love you all and hope to return the kindnesses in the future.