Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tomorrow, Work; Thursday, Hair?

I cried. I sat with Steve and cried like I had not cried in a long time. My emotions are usually in check, as I am quick to not give power to negativity that may result otherwise. BUT on Sunday, when I saw the 5 o'clock shadow on my head and felt stubble where there was none just two days before, I cried. My hair is finally starting to grow back. Steve says that my hairline resembles that of Captain Picard, Star Trek, The Next Generation. I am hoping my hair resembles that of G.I. Jane towards the end of this week or next. Either way, I am just happy to have something more than a little stubble on the very top of my head. For a while, I thought it would grow back in the shape of a mohawk because my head was so smooth on both sides. Now, I actually have a hairline that is filling in every day.

My scar is healing nicely. However, if I have spoken with you recently, you know that I am a little "over" having one breast, a six inch scar, no feeling and extra skin across my chest to about half way down my upper arm, no eyelashes on my left eye, a very few on my right, eyebrows that are just barely hanging on and no hair. No matter how great anyone tells me I look, the combination just is wearing on me a bit. That and I am tired of my head and neck being cold. I think this is why I was particularly emotional on Sunday, or maybe it was because I had not had a good cry in a while. Either way, it was a moment I will never forget.

Tomorrow, I will dawn my wig and start working again. I have an early morning appointment at Rady Children's Occupational Health. Assuming they grant me clearance to return to work, I have a 9:00 meeting with my supervisor. We have already briefly spoken about a couple of projects where I will need to focus my energy. I am going to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday for now, full days, which I imagine I will continue through the duration of my radiation treatments. Am I ready? Sure. I know any day I start back will be exhausting for me. I will miss being "around" for my kids and Steve. However, routine is good and I am needed at work. That and I have a new found focus now that I am cancer free. My health and my family are at the forefront, but I have more energy and brain power that I have had in a long time.

On another note, Steve and I meet with my radiation oncologist on Thursday. I am guessing I could start radiation as early as next week. I am not terribly thrilled but in researching my options, I am about 99% sure that having radiation provides the best chance at keeping cancer at bay (more to follow after Thursday's appointment).

In the interim, I am just going to focus on making today the most relaxing day possible. I started a new book last night. I am thinking that reading and pajamas seem to be the order for the day. Hmmmm, I think I need more coffee......

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dance Like No One's Watching

I have been feeling good. Actually feeling really good, until I tried to dig through and lift several boxes today in my garage. I was searching for a scrapbook for my daughter. I used to sell Creative Memories (scrapbooking supplies). After Harrison was born, I could not keep up with my CM customers or even scrapping my own books. That was 10 years ago. I have held on to ALL the materials and am now getting back into it...with Madison in tow. She loves it. She has a knack for it. (Shhh! Harrison does too.) Today, Madison graduated from her "Hello Kitty" kiddie album to a 12x12 scrapbook. If you have seen my garage, you know that my plight to find my CM materials was not an easy one. To the detriment of my right arm, I persevered, though. Thankfully, the swelling has gone down mostly. I guess I just needed the reminder that NO, I am not completely healed.

Still sore, I was determined to take Cooper for a walk, this evening. I was not going to let a little swelling get me down. (My remaining lymph nodes can get over it.) When I got back from my walk, I found a loose piece of paper lying amongst my scrapbooking materials. It is only page "one of two" and I have no way to easily reference its origin. Still, I wanted to share it on my blog. I am sure its title is familiar to to many of you. It is a perspective I share, now more than ever. It is funny to think that I printed it off of the Internet so long ago. Enjoy!

Dance Like No One's Watching

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that, we're frustrated that we have a teenager to deal with, we will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.

We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. The truth is there's no time to be happier than right now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy now anyway. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alfred D. Souza.

He said, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way, so, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time...and remember that time waits for no one.

So stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or the fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you have had a drink, until you have sobered up, until you die, until you are born again to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy....Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Cleaned My Fire Place Today

I cleaned my fireplace today. I kind of cleaned it anyway. I am no chimney sweep, after all. This is not a task I typically consider completing. In fact, I do not think I have ever considered cleaning it. However, yesterday, I cleared the boxes from the hearth and sitting in my usual spot on the couch this morning, I could not keep my eyes off the dusty grate in the fireplace. So, I cleaned it.

Before yesterday and the result of our remodel, all pictures not in photo boxes or rodent-proof containers were stacked on my fireplace hearth instead of the garage. The unorganized piles were an eyesore. BUT as I tirelessly sorted...oh, the memories I found scattered throughout: precious family memories; evidence of current and past friendships; the birth of both of my children; birthday parties; our wedding; college; vacations; and pictures of people who have left us long ago. All day long, the project kept my mind on happier times and off my impending oncology appointment.

Today, Steve and I visited my oncologist, Dr. Sweet. Much to our dismay, he did not give us a definitive answer on if I should pursue radiation therapy. He did say that my outcomes from my chemo/surgery combo are excellent. We also discussed some of the recent published studies that say cancer patients who suffered from my type of cancer have a better survivor rate if they have radiation. Thanks to Kelly I already knew of these studies. And really, based on what Kelly already told me, I knew that Dr. Sweet would refer me to a radiation therapist. That is exactly what he did.

Dr. Deree (my surgeon) says there is nothing left to radiate. Steve and I are not sure where we stand. Part of me does not want to put my body through any more harsh treatments. I feel like maybe I should take it as a sign that I came through chemo and my modified radical mastectomy strong and that maybe this strategy is not the best idea. I still have another mastectomy and reconstruction to tackle.

Another part of me wants to do whatever I possibly can to keep cancer at bay for as long as possible. However, as cancer is a different sort of animal, whose to say anything really keeps it at bay. I know diet and exercise are a given, but who is to say that radiation is going to kill the only abnormal cell in my body? As Steve said, any cell can mutate at any point.

Either way, I am confident that the radiation therapist will be brilliant and Steve and I will make a very informed decision. I bet I even end up having radiation.

As for an update on my healing process from surgery, my scar looks incredible. It is about six inches long and despite looking a little haggard on each end, it barely looks like anything. I am still bandaged where my drains lived for 10 days. I also still am not using my right side for anything strenuous, but I am walking Cooper, our 80-lb golden retriever, for 15 minutes each day. My pain has subsided substantially.

So what now? Until we decide on radiation, I am going to enjoy my days of leisure at home. I am going to enjoy my newly decorated house. I am going to continue going through pictures and am even going to take up scrapbooking again. Most importantly, I am going to make new memories with Steve, my family, the kids and friends. Isn't that what it is all about?