Pulling myself up
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
The past few weeks have been some of the hardest in my journey so far. Not really physically, but mentally. Don't get me wrong, I have had my ups and downs since the beginning of all this, which I think is just the nature of having a cancer diagnosis, but post-surgery has been tough. I have been trying to wrap my head around why it is so difficult, hence why I haven't written anything in quite some time. I can't say that I have completely figured it out, but I am starting to come out of it, with the help of additional supports and a change in focus.
Since my diagnosis, I have had a plan in my head of how this was going to go- chemo, surgery, radiation, back to life. If you read my last post, "Not the news I was expecting to hear," you know that the original plan was thrown out the window when it was recommended that I have more chemotherapy following surgery. This is because there was still active cancer remaining in my tumor at the time of surgery. Here is a link discussing the study that showed statistically significant improvement in survival odds in women who received chemo after surgery than those who did not. These were all women who did not have a complete pathologic response to chemo at the time of surgery, just like me. The fact of me needing more chemo really sunk in the past couple of weeks, and although I am not scared about more treatment, it was the fact that there could be cancer left inside me that really upset me. I told myself from the beginning, that the chemotherapy would kill it all, and surgery would be a success and everything would be great, but that wasn't the case. I had to accept that, easier said than done. I have tried to never dwell on statistics because when it comes to me, statistics are binary, either I am going to be cancer free, or I'm not. But this whole wrench in the plan has brought back the fear I felt in the beginning, am I going to survive this?
Those thoughts, and a crap ton of paperwork have kept me preoccupied the past couple of weeks. Speaking of paperwork, I drafted a post about all of the stuff going on with work, disability status, school, and the paperwork associated with it, but it was boring and WAY too long. Also, not sure if anyone would want to read it anyway. I will edit it and see how I feel about it.
Anyway, I am happy to say, that my continued optimism has finally prevailed. After allowing myself to mourn and feel all the scary feelings, I channelled that fear and refocused it toward more positive things. For instance, I reached out and am now a part of the Firefly Sisterhood, which matches women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer to women who have already gone through it. They take your story and try to match it as closely as possible to someone else so that they can relate and help you through. I am happy to say, I have been matched with a mentor who even lives near me. I have high hopes for what the mentorship may have to offer, and I hope I can one day turn the tables and help another young woman going through this. And that brings me to another thing I have been struggling with recently. I keep asking myself, how do I make my life meaningful? I know I have done a lot of good so far, I just want to make sure I find something I love and am passionate about because life is short people!! I have no idea what this means in terms of work, but I know I need to finish school, put that MPH behind my name, help other women like me, and see where that takes me.
I have also been looking into gyms that offer support and classes to people going through cancer. I discovered that Curves does a lot with supporting women with breast cancer, so I contacted the Curves that is less than a mile from my house and I have a meeting with the owner tomorrow. She said she would offer me a scholarship and would tailer a plan to fit my needs as I continue with treatments. Hopefully the meeting will go well, because I need to get off my butt and put my energy into making myself as healthy as possible. Of course, I will wait until I am cleared to work out from my surgeon, but hoping that will happen at my next visit which is October 3. Physically, I am doing pretty well. I no longer need to take pain medication on a regular basis, and my arms are becoming more flexible daily. My left arm, however, where they took out the lymph nodes has been more painful and difficult to stretch than my right. Luckily I have an occupation therapy (OT) appointment coming up, and I am going to request a physical therapy (PT) appointment as well to help with pain and mobility issues. Overall, I am happy that I chose immediate breast reconstruction, but I am still getting used to my new normal. My new breasts do not feel like they are a part of me yet, so hopefully that will change with time.
My appointment with my oncologist is this Friday. I will have my blood drawn, have a check up, and as long as everything looks good, they will be ordering my chemo meds. This time around, the medication is taken orally, so I can take it at home! Apparently it will be delivered to my house from a specialty pharmacy. I will be taking the medication twice a day for 14 days, followed by 7 days off to allow my body to recover. Then, I will go back to the hospital, have my blood drawn again and start all over. Each round will be 3 weeks, and the goal is to complete 6 to 8 rounds. Hopefully I will tolerate it well, and won't have too many side effects. The only thing I am nervous about are the potential side effects. Considering I am still experiencing side effects from my previous treatments, I don't really want to add more at this point.
Thank you to all have sent cards, gifts, and care packages my way. I truly appreciate it and it brightens my day to know people are thinking of me!
Let me know if you have questions about anything, or if I have forgotten to cover something. I live this everyday and know the ins and outs, so I'm not really sure what people want to know or what might be unclear. Feel free to comment, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening!