Thursday, August 11, 2011

For the thousandth time, it's me

This is my thousandth post. Can you  you believe it? I kept a blog a few months before I started this one describing my experiences in Italy (number one hit these days: Pompeii and porn). One of my son's good friends had kept a travel blog about his African adventures that I used as a model. He now keeps a blog about his travels in South America. He's a good writer with a sense of humor that matches mine. (see:
 Less than a month after I returned, I found that I had cancer. What a sucker punch! Why me? How could I get through this?Will I get through this? Initial googling of TNBC gave me hits such as poor prognosis, aggressive, no targetted treatment, deadly...I started the blog at first to tell my friends  en masse what was going on without having to repeat the same sad story over and over. I also wanted to sort through my feelings, which writing helps me do. Later I realized that the blog was broadcast beyond my small circle to others who were going through the same terrors; some a bit ahead of me and some following right behind. Four of us formed a small support group: Sharon in Maryland, Kathy in Chicago and Renee in Washington. Other ladies soon followed and gave support while dealing with similar issues. Sadly some of these ladies are now dead.

I initially titled this blog Sue in the Land of Cancer. It indeed seemed like I was visiting a different country with me being a different person. I was terrified. The day before I began chemo, I wrote a list of passwords and other such information down as I thought the chemo would erase my memories. Of the 3 legs of the cancer triathlon, chemo scared me the most. Also it lasted the longest: 16 long weeks in the dead of winter. This is a partial list of what the Red Devil did to me: stopped all hair growth excepting my eyebrows and eyelashes (didn't lose them until AFTER I finished chemo), oil glands stopped producing so my skin became papery, aprocrine glands stopped working (a good thing but function returned a year later), gums sore, stomach lining shot, I could no longer drink my beloved coffee, constantly queasy, decreased my red blood count so moving was more difficult. Taxol had its own charms mainly nerve pain. I would have horrible muscle pain that I could not get relief from though a lot of the red devil stuff was going away. And compared to many other people, I got off lightly. I was able to get out and enjoy life a little bit. I never needed to be hospitalized . I was able to exercise at a very reduced level but at a higher level than most other patients.

I was left with a  few lasting symptoms. For a year almost, I had pain in my upper right arm limiting its use. I am not sure why, nerve damage from radiation and/or surgery? I was very afraid of it being due to bone mets and I didn't even want to have it checked out afraid of what I might find. It went away with exercises I learned from PT on my broken arm. My last Taxol infusion left me with a painful large clot that formed on my wrist. If I accidentally hit it, it would hurt a lot.It gradually disappeared. My hair finally was an inch long 14 weeks after my last infusion. Instead of being straight and white blond, it was curly and black/gray/white. After a few people tacked on years to my estimated age, I started dyeing it.

After a year, I changed the blog's name to Escape from Cancerland. I seem to have escaped but I guess I won't know for sure for another year or two. Initially I was given a 70% chance of seeing 2018 if I did chemo, only 50% chance if I did not. However, TNBC has its median recurrence after 18 months and drops down to almost nothing at 5 years. Extrapolating that it has been almost 3 years after I was diagnosed, I am thinking my chances of mets has gone down to only around 5% now vs 30%. Still when the weather forecasts a 30% chance of rain and then it rains, it makes me nervous. At any rate, I think about it less and less as time goes on. Also more pressing issues have occupied my mind.

One of my breasts passes the Ann Lander's test on whether one can go braless and the other does not. The test is simple: if you put a pencil underneath your breast and it falls, you can go braless. However, if it doesn't..better get some support. So one breast is all firm though it has criss crossing scars from the two surgeries and a lump comprised of scar tissue and a lasting seroma and the other, almost twice the size is its before picture. This is way down on my list of cosmetic defects that I have that could be possibly corrected.

So as I continue to escape from cancer by trying to eat better, take certain supplements, and exercise regularly, I am further and further away and my blog will reflect that. Recently I ran into a survivor of a particularly aggressive subtype of BC who attributed her survival to having a good attitude. I won't do that.

I felt a rare feeling this morning: coolness. I took advantage of this and went for an especially long run in the country. I won't have much time for this in the next ten days.


Holly said...

wow - 1,000 posts! congratulations...keep 'em coming!!

Teri Bernstein said...

Mille fiori ! If I were in Italy I would buy you some special glass to celebrate your 1000th post! Congratulations on ALL the fronts your address. Love always...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I enjoy reading your blog and have been doing so for some time now!


Blog Archive