Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1129

It's October y'all.

Know what that means?  Football and cooler nights and sweaters and pumpkin scented everything.

It also means a deluge of pink ribbons everywhere.  You'll see more fundraisers for breast cancer awareness this month than you will the rest of the months of the year combined.  You'll be able to buy pink trash bags, pink socks, pink ribbon jewelry.... everything from shampoo to sweatshirts will turn pink for October.  The NFL players will be wearing pink socks and gloves.  Even our high school football team has a "Pink Out" game.

The sad part is, most of that money is simply revenue for the companies capitalizing on an extremely popular marketing campaign.  If you look at the numbers, very little of the money spent on pink ribbon stuff actually goes towards funding anything to do with breast cancer.  

That sucks.  But you know what?  For me, buying a pink ribbon bracelet because it's pretty and your mother had breast cancer is ok.  Wearing pink ribbon fuzzy socks on the first cold day because you couldn't resist them is ok.  I'm pretty sure there aren't too many people around who are not aware of breast cancer.  One in eight women will get it, which means a lot more of those eight will be directly affected by it.  Choose how you participate in the pink ribbon campaign wisely.  Going without a bra for a day to "save the ta tas" is not ok.... it's a Facebook gimmick. 
(If you want some cute stuff and help fund mammograms for women while you're at it, shop at The Breast Cancer Site.  They will tell you exactly how much of your purchase goes toward breast cancer funding.)

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a softball coach from out of town, and she mentioned that her mom has breast cancer.  I told her that I am a three year breast cancer survivor, and her email reply was:

That's AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

Yeah.  It damn sure is.

Next weekend is our softball league's fifth annual "Hope for a Cure" tournament.  K's team will be wearing special pink ribbon jerseys, and I bought Hubby a pin that says "Real men wear pink".  Not because I want to jump on the Pinktober bandwagon, but because this has been a very real, very difficult, very personal journey and "Pinktober" MEANS something to me.  When I hand out the trophies and medals to the winning teams next Sunday and tell them that I'm a breast cancer survivor, it shows those young girls that breast cancer is more than just a pink ribbon on a cup.  I can look at them and smile and tell them thank you for playing for a such a good cause.  I can give them a face for "Pinktober".

From my October 1st blog post two years ago:

I don't wear pink to make people aware.  I don't wear my pink ribbon necklace so people will know I had breast cancer.  I support "the cause", because in turn, I'm supporting the women who have been and are right there with me.  Fighting cancer is a big, huge deal, and every day that I wake up breathing and smiling is a big fat "f-you" to cancer.  And that's worth wearing pink for! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1119

There haven't been many days in the last 1000+ that I haven't been tired, but lately my fatigue is at a whole new level.  If I wasn't so tired, I would probably be really worried.

This is me at work today:

I'm not kidding.  
It probably didn't help that I took a muscle relaxer at midnight last night.  But what are you supposed to do when you go to sleep, then wake up fifteen minutes later with serious jitters and restless legs?  I needed help - fast.

I'm a night owl.  I always have been.
Mornings are not my friend.  My mother wakes up at 5am (or earlier) every day.... without an alarm clock.  Seriously?  That's practically the middle of the night for me.  
Lately I've been fighting some kind of cold with a migraine or allergies or SOMEthing, and have been staying up way too late working on softball stuff.  So last night I went to bed at 10:30, determined to get a good night's sleep.

It didn't work out for me.  I fell asleep fine, but staying asleep was the problem.  How can I be so incredibly exhausted and yet unable to sleep?

It doesn't really matter if I go to bed at 10pm or 1am.  It doesn't matter if I go to work, or if I go back to bed after the kids leave for school and nap until 11am.  I never feel rested.
Is this a post-cancer thing?  A menopause thing?  A life is so busy I just need a hundred naps thing?
Or is something else going on... something possibly scary and worrisome that I don't even want to think about?

I'm blaming it on Tamoxifen, which has been proven to cause symptoms similar to chemo brain.
In fact, Tamoxifen has been linked to symptoms like being unusually disorganized, confusion, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, impaired verbal memory (e.g. remembering a conversation), impaired visual memory (e.g. recalling an image or list of words) and other similar problems. 

I'm like a toddler with ADHD.  I'm exhausted but can't sleep, can't pay attention, can't stay on task, etc.  There is hope, though.  From WebMD:

For the study, Mark Noble and his research team first sought to identify whether brain and central nervous system cells were sensitive to tamoxifen. They found one type of cell that was particularly vulnerable to the drug. After just two days of exposure to tamoxifen at levels similar to those someone in treatment would receive, 75 percent of these cells died.

"AZD6244 is being studied for cancer therapy. It protects normal cells, but it doesn't protect cancer cells. It may even make cancer cells more sensitive to some types of therapies," Noble said.

I don't know how soon the additional research on this AZD drug will happen, so it's probably years away from being a viable option.  But considering I have to take Tamoxifen for ten years.... maybe eventually I'll get back to being sharp, smart, organized and energetic.

Maybe.  But looks like that's not happening today.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1109

I wanted to write something profound, something that would touch people and mean something on this, the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.
Then I realized I already had.  The following post is from my blog five years ago, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I still feel exactly as I did that day, and I couldn't have written anything better.

Never forget.

September 11, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1103

Lately I've felt like Snoopy in that cartoon.  I don't claim to be a writer in any way, shape or form .... but as a blogger, writer's block can and has hit me a time or two.  This is one of those times.

In 2013 I was in the midst of a grueling chemo regimen designed to save my life.  I had a lot more to write about back then.  Chemo details, cold caps, appointments, medication, injections, side effects... the list was endless.  Now that life is settling into a new normal for me, it's more of a same stuff, different day kind of thing.

I have four cancer doctors.  One of them I only have to see once a year.  The other three are six month visits.  I'm lucky because aside from Tamoxifen side effects, I'm feeling pretty good, so when I go to an appointment, I usually get a "everything looks good, see you in six months".  Considering where I was this time three years ago, I consider that progress.  If hot flashes, hip pain and restless legs are my biggest complaints, I can't really complain.

One area I haven't made a lot of progress in is dealing with the fear.  I don't have any reason to believe I am not cancer free.  I did everything medically possible to give myself the best chance to live a lot of years with NED (no evidence of disease).  Sixteen weeks of chemo, seven surgeries, six weeks of radiation and now eight more years of hormone therapy..... that's a pretty impressive attack on cancer.  

The unknown is a dark and scary place, though.  I haven't had a scan since I finished chemo.  My mom had colon cancer and she has routine CT scans to check for the dreaded C.  While those scans are nerve-wracking, it's a relief when she gets the all clear.  Aside from routine blood work when I see Dr. H, I don't have any tests or procedures to check for cancer.  Basically, unless my labs go wonky or I start showing worrisome symptoms, everyone is happy, and that is my "all clear".  Despite that, there's a small part of me that always, always expects to have the other shoe drop eventually.  I'm only 43 years old and I had Stage III cancer.  I'm also positive for the BRCA 2 gene, which means my chances of getting breast cancer, as well as many other cancers, are much higher than normal.  That's serious business to me.  

How do I combat that fear?  By being grateful for every moment.  I get to watch my son march with his band during the halftime shows at football games.  He loves band, and I love that for him.  

I get to spend most of my free time doing softball stuff.... I am vice president and scheduler for the league, and team mom for K's team.  Saturday she had five games and she pitched and/or caught in all of them.  I love, love, love watching her and her Diamonds teammates play.  

Today is Labor Day, which means I got to spend an extra day with Hubby.  We walked hand in hand through Lowe's, planning a bathroom update.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Today I was shopping for a vanity.

A couple weeks ago my sister-in-law (another cancer survivor) accompanied me to my doctor appointment in Dallas and we had an overnight detour at the casino.  Last week I had dinner and a drink with a friend.  I read a lot, I drive around with the sunroof open and the music loud, and I've been binge watching Sons of Anarchy with my husband.

Football games, softball games, band performances, dinners out with friends, home improvements..... all little things that add up to one big thing:  my life.

There have been many dark days since August 1, 2013, but life is so good.