Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sixth cancerversary

This is a collage of flowers in my yard as of May. The zinnias, carnations and the evening primrose are still bloom
I didn't feel a thing. I had skipped my annual mammogram in May because I did not want any bad news derailing my trip to Italy that summer. A suspicious lesion had been watched since 1999 and we have a strong history of breast cancer in our family so my decision to postpone this bordered on recklessness or maybe it saved my life. Most breast cancers are very slow growing. Indeed mets sometimes take 15 years to develop from the original tumor. But triple negative breast cancers can develop between annual mammograms and by the time they are detected, they have already spread. Indeed, in the month between detection and surgery, the tumor had doubled in size and a new tumor had developed necessitating a second surgery. Guidelines and standard operating procedures are developed for the vast majority of BC cases. They are not altered for individual cases, though they should be.

I quickly divided the time  between when I knew and when I was blissfully ignorant. I irrationally regretted putting myself in the position of learning this awful thing. Was I so happy before this occurred? I can't remember. All I knew was from the moment I learned about the possibility, that cancer dominated my thoughts until decreasingly a year after. They were not good thoughts.

I was given a 70% chance of surviving this. When I whined about that 30%, I was told that I should concentrate on that 70%. After all, I know people clinging to hope with much smaller numbers, in some cases less than 5%, some very close to zero (there is always room for a miracle). I made myself a bit happier dissecting the data behind those scary odds; things were probably much better now as the treatment should be better than 10 years ago.

Treatment was no fun although compared to most, I did well. My runs during chemo went from 20 minutes at a time down to about 30 seconds before I had to stop gasping for air down to walks. My neighbor who was diagnosed at the same time with the same cancer and had the same chemo had no energy to complete a sentence without gasping for breath. She could not walk out of the house as her red blood cells were so depleted and she resisted a transfusion. Although I did leave the house regularly, there was a lot I had no energy for. I didn't cook a thing for a year. When I finally resumed, I noticed that moths somehow made their way into sealed containers so I had to throw a lot of things out. The worst was how sad I was. I was going to miss life. But still life went on and somehow I would have to muster the energy to deal with things.

So I have survived. A blessing of TNBC is that it comes back sooner than later so I am out of the woods. I did have my scare back in November bringing back a flood of negative feelings and outright panic. As regional recurrences usually happen within the first 2 years, chances were that this suspected lesion was a new primary and not necessarily TNBC. But after an extremely expensive biopsy (insurance is not as good as it was way back when I first had cancer), the anomaly turned out to be harmless fat necrosis.

What is left? Recently a relatively young newscaster survived very early stage BC and went  on TV to gurgle on what an uplifting experience this was and how she now is a better person for it. She seemed glad to have had cancer. Good for her! But this was very irritating for those still in treatment and those whose memories are not so positive. I am not glad I had cancer. I am glad I survived it. I am left with a mutilated breast. I suppose I could get it fixed but it does not seem that important as it is easier to disguise than my obesity, a larger cosmetic issue. I still have nerve damage such that I get these stabbing pains on the treated side that are so painful, I have trouble breathing. But they usually subside within minutes though I have had attacks lasting an hour. Sometimes I will go months without having them but yesterday I was treated to 2 attacks.

Back to my life now. The powerful storm that rolled through Friday had lasting effects (another one due in just a few hours). Allie's daycare had no power until late last night. It was irritating that the place did not warn its clients nor did it update its website directly. Josh left work early to care for Allie; we provided the care yesterday. This place should invest in a back-up generator as so many depend on its services. Allie is a joy to watch but is hard work. We had to wake up extra early and forgo parts of our routine. Steve had dropped me off on the way there so I could get a run in so I wasn't there to hear the detailed menu that was to be served to Allie. Later we get an enraged call because the menu wasn't followed to the letter. What is important here?
Steve was so angry that he has withdrawn his services as an Allie tender. No one is better with babies than he is but someone is too blind to see that. Meanwhile I promised an outing with Maya on her last day before school was to start that I didn't do when I said I would. I did spend an evening with her. First we wen to the pet shop to see the animals, then to a yogurt shop in which they have zillions of potential colorful toppings including all sorts of gummy animals. The biggest thrill was picking out the highest seat to sit in. I left my phone in the car so I didn't photograph how cute she was (also I missed the enraged phone call about our substandard babysitting service so Steve was treated instead. He quietly seethed.,.I ended up being not so quiet). What next? I said I'd take her to a playground but she wanted to see Frozen for the umpteenth time and see Danpa (Steve). Although I said she'd have to watch it all by herself, I ended up sitting with her. Let it go, indeed.

A funny thing: I had just finished my run to Josh's house when all of a sudden I was hit from behind. WTF? Turned out it was Sunny, Josh's part-time German Shepherd, saying Hi to me. I didn't hear her coming.

It has since occurred to me that I have not thanked people enough for making my stay in Cancerland less onerous. First and foremost, Steve who waited on me hand and foot and tried to cheer me up. He took me to all my chemos and didn't seem repulsed by my drastically altered appearance. All my friends who sent me flowers and food and visited me when I was less than fun to be with. My kids who took me out when they could. My California friend who sent me a care package of favorite TV shows and movies and agreed to go anywhere with me if I survived the first year (I picked Italy). The Cancer support community, Livestrong and my blogging friends, some of whom I have no idea what has happened to them (and some who are now dead). Below are examples of a kindness. Lesa of LittleLifePreservers makes homemade cards. For 2 years, every month I would get one of these intricate beauties. Below are 2 of them:


Lisa said...

Happy Cancerversary. Ten years ago today I had a MRM with TRAM reconstruction. Surviving is good, but you can never forget.

Elephant's Child said...

Happy Cancerversary. And I hope there are many more to come.
I hear you on the lack of gratitude though. I am not grateful to have MS. It is what it is, but gratitude has no place in my equation.

Caroline said...

Happy cancerversary. I'm 7.5 years from breast cancer and 33 years from thyroid cancer. Love the flowers

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Thanks all of you. Caroline, my daughter Shanna lived in Arlington MA until she moved back to MI in 2012. Small world.
I see you love peonies.


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