Monday, October 16, 2006

State of the body

I keep meaning to update here daily...and life gets in the way. This is usually a good thing: I'm doing "normal" things like cleaning the house, taking Tessa to playdates, going running, etc. It's about time. ;-)

I thought, though, that I'd include a body update. Some is good, some is less than perfect, but as long as I'm NED I can accept what I'm given.

Here goes:

Breast cancer: I remain No Evidence of Disease (NED). I get blood work every 3 weeks, and every time it's coming back "perfect." My doctor does not do routine scans (this is a debate in the oncology world, but after reading the studies I agree with her conclusions) but there are no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Excellent!

Bones: As I mentioned previously, I lost 11% of the bone density in my spine last year. This is not entirely unexpected due to the sudden onset of menopause and the addition of Femara (aromatase inhibitor - removes estrogen from the body) but it's frightening because the numbers are so high. I am trying to counter these effects with diet, exercise, and supplements. I'm running regularly, eating leafy greens and drinking lattes for the milk, and taking 1500mg of calcium + D every day.

Joint pain. This is another cause of concern for me. My first 5 months or so of Femara had no noticable effects, but for the past couple of months I feel like an old, old, old woman. When I've been still for a while (sitting down for dinner, kneeling on the floor to play with Tessa, or, worst of all, waking up in the morning after a night's sleep) my bones HURT. It takes my breath away it's so painful, and I find myself hobbling and gasping because of it. The good news is that this only lasts a short time, and I can "walk it off" but it's a really, truly unpleasant side effect. I refuse to consider going off Femara because it's supposed to be so good for me, but I'm counting down the four years and three months left until I'm done with it.

Lymphedema: My left arm/hand have problems with swelling. My rehab doctor gave me a real lecture last time I saw him, reminding me that people get REAL problems (like staph infections and death) from lymphedema, and I need to take better care of it. That's why you'll see me wearing the ugly sleeve and glove more often these days. It's a lifelong condition, too, which is rather unfortunate. It doesn't hurt all the time but sometimes I feel my arm just throbbing, and when I'm getting a flare-up it aches.

Hot Flashes: Menopause is not particularly fun. I ocassionally have monumental hot flashes that cover my entire body with sweat and make it hard for me to concentrate on anything but how horribly, uncomfortably hot I have become...although fortunately, these hot flashes have lessened and mostly been replaced with more irritating but not overwhelming hot flashes (still hot and uncomfortable, but not so sweaty). Every night I still get them, too, sometimes with night sweats, and this is not great because it disrupts my sleep. There isn't much to do about them: I can't take any form of estrogen/hormone replacement, so I truckon on, hoping that one day they go away.

GI Tract: I'll spare you the gross details, but I'm not healed from chemo, and I have some ugly side effects that are probably just residual from chemo, but I have to have a colonoscopy to check it out. I also have to take Metamucil (sp?) and some prescriptions to see if we can correct the problems, despite my high fiber diet with lots of water, fruits, and veggies.

Mobility: My lat flap (untreated) side looks good, and I can move my arm as much as I desire. My treated side is still tight, however, and I continue to do physical therapy with it to regain full range of motion.

Skin: My skin is still not completely healed from radiation. I will find out on the 26th whether it's ready to go for the next surgery; I'm optimistic about this but there is a chance that it's still too soon.

Reconstruction: The tissue expander on the prophylactic side looks like it's the full size to me, and it looks okay, though it's rotated due to my high levels of activity (which gives it a strange lopsided look). Nov. 7 I'll do the same procedure on my treated side, and I'm looking forward to having two breasts, but dreading the surgery because it was so, so hard (painful) last time. The tissue expander makes my breast ROCK hard - like having a turtle on my chest - but when I get the expanders exchanged for implants (most likely silicone) they should return to a more normal feeling. That's good, because when I hug people I feel like I'm damaging them and me...and I hate that when I snuggle Tessa "it" gets in the way.

Portacath: I have started my second year of Herceptin treatment, and I will keep my portacath for as long as possible to get through that year. The portacath is "loose" and sticks out of my skin (in part due to the reconstruction, in part due to my weight loss), but it's still worthwhile because my veins have a tendancy to close up when a needle walks in the room. I have to remember this when Tessa accidentally bumps it and it makes me yelp in is worth it, it is worth it!

Hair: While it's not the haircut I desire, I'm pleased that nobody would look at me and think "cancer patient."

Running: A week ago, I ran my first 10k. It took me an hour (9:44 min/mile) which is no land-speed record, but I'm still proud of myself for doing it and not collapsing at the end. I'm scheduled to run/walk a 1/2 marathon at the end of this week, too. Hurrah!

Weight: I no longer count points for WW, but I am still adhering to the WW philosophies as a "lifetime member." My weight fluctuates up and down a couple of pounds, as is normal, and I use the scale as a guide to remind me when it's time to ease back a little. I'm not afraid of a pound or two, but it's important to me that the pounds don't start adding back up, so I'm diligent about staying on top of even a pound or two gain, so that I never have to fight a "big" weight loss battle again. I love my new physique: it's not perfect by any means, but I'm proud of the changes I've made, and the impact they should have on my health.

That's all for now - I'm off to pick up Tessa from Jenny's. Hopefully this post will answer some of the questions I've been getting about how I am: I'm doing very well, despite the unfortunate reminders that cancer treatment has left me with. There are days that I feel like a very old woman...but I can live with that as long as I get to live.


PS Okay, one other update: yesteray I got the stomach flu, and today I've been having back spasms. YUCK!