Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Birthday Goal

Surgery was June 28 and my birthday was the end of July

I wasn't tip-top, back to normal on my birthday, but I did have most of my strength back. I could manage a full-day at work without feeling like I was 90+ years old at the end of the day. I had gotten up to a 1 mile walk (before I felt weak and my insides started feeling pulled and tight). I still could not do ab workouts and I had to be careful with the yoga and certain positions were off limits.
So, basically I was doing pretty well and I was able to go out and celebrate my birthday!

What I didn't plan on was looking pregnant for a few weeks and not having any clothes that fit. I had not gained weight from eating, but I was still holding fluid from the surgery. It seemed that my ab area had become a canteen and my body thought I was in the desert.  My ob/gyn said that the fluid should have been absorbed (dealt with) by my body by the time I saw her for post-surgery check up two weeks later; however, par for my course, that was not the case. She did give me a prescription diuretic. I took one pill that night and was practically a new person the next day.
My pants were no longer squeezing the breath out of me, leaving marks and the pressure and discomfort in my ab area was greatly reduced. Now, I really was feeling better.

I did have a great birthday - one that I won't forget. I went on a first date. I met someone a few months earlier and we had been talking and texting almost daily, but had not yet been on a date (oh, I should clarify - he lived out of town, so we couldn't see each other without advanced planning).
He decided that he wanted our first date to be on my birthday. I thought it was a bold move and I liked the fact that he was up for the "challenge" of my birthday and first date happening simultaneously.
Highlights: good restaurant, bourbon tasting, talked for hours, stayed in the restaurant for about three to four hours and had no idea we'd been there that long, great kisser.

You can't predict how or when you tell someone that you've had breast cancer surgery and a surgery where you lost one ovary and both fallopian tubes. You don't know how they'll respond or what their reaction will be to this information. It's not like I run around with a billboard that screams "I had cancer and two surgeries". I have told very few people (yeah, I realize how odd that may seem when blog about my cancer experience) and I don't tell unless there is a really good reason to share.

If there is a possibility of an intimate situation occurring with someone, I have to tell - can't hide it. And, I have shared the news ahead of time and not waited until some awkward pause in the "heat of the moment" so to speak. For those of you keeping track, the guy I mentioned in the April 2013 entry, Extra Extra: Good News, had gone to "friend only" status. After several months it was pretty clear that it wasn't going to work out between us - moving on.....
The "birthday first date guy" and I continued to see each other and things seemed to be going well.

November brought the end of that relationship, emotional and stress eating, very busy time at work and the year mark for my mammogram.
Things start and some things stop and some things are a cycle............

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"THUD"....the sound of the other shoe that dropped

I was hoping there would be no other news flashes, changes or "shoe dropping", but it  happened. On June 5, 2013 I had my follow up pelvic ultrasound (aka my "date with the ultrasound wand" as I call it).
That ultrasound led to many doctor appointments over the next several weeks and then surgery.

Although the majority of the Tamoxifen "accessories" I had gained during my 8 months of taking that drug had resolved, the left ovary was not returning to normal and that complex cyst was still there. The right ovary was fine and other things looked more normal, but the left ovary was very concerning. My ob/gyn recommended that I have surgery to remove the left ovary, left fallopian tube and biopsy the uterine lining to make certain that cancer was not lurking.

Needless to say, I was scared! My ob/gyn was calmly explaining the procedure, what would happen, etc and all I could hear was Charlie Brown's teacher's voice. The word cancer was on repeat in my head like a bad musac track from an elevator.
I went home and started a pity party for myself that lasted several days and included lots of crying, fear, anxiety and questions: "why me?", "what did I do to deserve this?" and "whose going to want me with no girl parts left and all the side effects that brings?".

We set the surgery date for June 28, 2013 and I prepared myself for the worst, but was praying and hoping for the best. I would have laparoscopic surgery under general anesthesia. The left ovary and left f tube would be removed, the uterine lining would be biopsied and all of that would have quick pathology done. IF any of those came back with cancer, then I'd have a complete hysterectomy (all my "girl parts" would be taken away). I agreed that I didn't want two surgeries so I signed paperwork that clearly stated to go ahead and do a total hysterectomy if there was cancer found.
Why wake up, hear the cancer word and then have to set another surgery date? No way. I decided to make it a "surprise" - which means I would not know if I had any "girl parts" left or another cancer diagnosis until I woke up in the recovery room.

Now this plan was finalized as far as I was concerned, but I was mistaken. There was one more decision I would have to make. I met with the gyn onc to review and discuss what would happen if cancer was found during my laparoscopic procedure. The gyn onc would be the one to step in and take the the procedure from three holes in my stomach to cutting me open and taking out everything and doing the staging (aka biopsying other bits and pieces in the surrounding areas to make sure cancer was not lurking somewhere else).
I was now hit with the new decision: if cancer was not found, why not go ahead and take out both ovaries and f tubes since I was already there under anesthesia and all?

This is where I began to fall apart - again. I had pulled myself back together (well, as much as I could) after agreeing to surgery and the original two options. Now, I had yet another decision to make: if there is no cancer found and hysterectomy is not needed, do I still give them both ovaries and fallopian tubes? In other words, do I say "yes" to surgical menopause without a cancer diagnosis?

The gyn onc explained, as my breast onc had previously explained, that not having ovaries could reduce my chances of a recurrence of breast cancer (I had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer). I'm not crazy, I had already said take out all the "girls parts" right then and there if cancer was found during the surgery.....but did I want to agree to give them parts that didn't have to come out?
It was being presented as a good news option......Hey, if you let us take both ovaries then you can start taking the post-menopausal breast cancer drug without having to take the shots to put your body into menopause....
I failed to see the "good news" aspect of this presentation. I had a lot of thinking to do and a huge decision to make in a matter of days.

I said NO to the extra donation to medical waste. I was determined to keep the right ovary and right f tube if there was no cancer! My gyn supported my decision (she is an amazing person and care provider by the way!). This way, I could consider taking the shots to throw myself into menopause and take the post-menopausal breast cancer drug. If the side effects from this drug were horrendous, I could stop the the shots and kind of come out of the menopausal state.  If I gave them both ovaries, there would be no turning back from a menopausal state. My age also played a part in this discussion - there was a chance that even if I stopped the shots, I wouldn't bounce back.

So here's what happened on my surgery date, June 28, 2013:
I woke up with some girl parts left, but not as many as I had hoped. My left ovary and f tube were removed as planned, but the right f tube looked suspicious so it was taken out too. I was able to keep my right ovary and uterus. Good news - no cancer found!

In case you need a quick biology reminder, no I cannot ever get pregnant now. Even though I knew that getting pregnant and having a child was probably not in my future, it was still possible - biologically possible, it could happen. Now, it cannot happen. This news was tough to digest. It was more difficult and upsetting than I had imaged. It is very difficult to go from "it probably want happen for me" to "it cannot and will not happen".

I am still recovering from the laparoscopic surgery (takes 4-6 weeks to regain 75% of your strength). The recovery has been more challenging than I expected. I grossly under estimated the healing and recovery time. I was comparing it to my breast cancer surgery - not a fair comparison by any means. I'm working back up to my 2 mile walks, morning yoga and ab workouts and I will get there.

Yeah, I'll get there.....I'll get there with my new normal, with decisions about future breast cancer drugs and moving forward with my life. Not having another cancer diagnosis is a major relief, but I still have to somehow wrap my head around what has happened to my body and come to terms with that.

Two years ago this month, I was happy that I had completed breast cancer surgery and my radiation treatments before my birthday. That was my goal two years ago - to have it all "finished" before my 2011 birthday.
Never thought I'd be here again. Never thought I'd be facing another "get well" goal before another birthday, but here I am.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Extra Extra: Good News

I have passed the two year milestone and I feel great!
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 28, 2011 and my recent mammogram and MRI have given me the "all clear".

But is there such thing as too much good news? I'm happy to hear that my test results were positive and there were no signs of cancer, but somehow during the last 6 months I started dating someone and last month my job life changed drastically for the better.
I'm not sure if I am finally catching a break or if there is some other shoe that is going to drop.

I couldn't be happier with my work and the people I work for and with - I'm glad to go there 5 days a week. I'm excited about this very special person in my life and it seems that things are going very well. So, why do I feel like at any minute I might hear the other shoe drop?

I don't  want to be a pessimist
but I think that I am more of a realist
and definitely an optimist in my work-life.
So, why can I just enjoy all this great news?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Body, My Science Project

First, I must apologize for taking so long to give follow up information.....but, here we go...

August 15, 2012
This is the day that I went back for another internal ultrasound (or as I liked to call it a "date with an ultrasound wand") and as an extra bit of fun, I got to have a biopsy to make sure that none of my "accessories" were leaning to/ or were cancer.

The good news is that the biggest cyst was gone as well as the other "cyst friends" on each ovary. There were also no polyps or abnormalities seen this time. My endometrian lining had decreased from 18mm to 6mm. My right ovary was now listed as "normal" and my left ovary had reduced in size (heading toward normal). The most important news was: no signs of cancer... and I wouldn't need another "date" with the ultrasound wand for 6 months.
Obviously I was very excited and relieved by this news! The gamble had paid off!

The gamble you ask?
Tamoxifen vs No Tamoxifen, that was the gamble. All these new "accessories" in my uterus and ovaries had appeared during the 8 months I was taking Tamoxifen.
(details in previous post: "Less is More: Tamoxifen 'accessories'" --- the link is below)

Some people would say put up with these side effects because it could likely keep me from getting cancer again. Some other people might say that the side effects were too great - not balanced with quality of life.
My oncologist is trying to get me on the other breast cancer drug (that would require shots to put me in early menopause so I could take that drug) and I have said NO. Would you agree to that?

Maybe I am one of those people that have extreme side effects to medications. Maybe other people take Tamoxifen with no problems (other than the usual side effects: hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, bone density issues, possible vision problems). Whatever the case may be, I stopped Tamoxifen after 8 months. The side effects were more than I bargained for and the phrase "quality of life" means a lot to me.

As I always say, my decisions are not for everyone and no one should make decisions about Tamoxifen based on what I write.
I do know what is right for me  - my body became my science project - and my gamble paid off.