Today I shaved my legs for the first time since August 2008. Tho not having to shave was nice for a while, having my hair back is great. This along with my eye brows and lashes coming in ... my face is now starting to look more normal.
Next on my list is nose hair... yupper, to help stop up my perpetually runny nose. And ... having some hair on my head just adds to my healthier new look. Now I don’t stand out so much. So yay for me!
This morning I was at the cancer clinic to hook up with the knitting group. What a great group of ladies. Last week I mentioned that I had many bloggers suggest I try a neti pot for my sinus issues. I never purchased one because I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. Well one of the ladies was listening because she bought a NeilMed Sinus Rinse kit for me to try out. Thank you very much. I’ll let you know how it all works out later.
I came home for a quick pit stop and then I was off to the Second Cup coffee group. We chatted for three hours ... wow. We sure covered a lot of ground.
The other day I was cleaning my glasses in the bathroom and decided to take a closer look at my face. In the past I’ve avoided doing this because my face always looked so abused... puffed up with dark lines. I definitely look older when on Taxotere. Anyways, when I looked closely ... I noticed that I sprouted new eye lashes. Woohoo! There is only about ten of them on both upper lids but hey, I’m happy. Now I need to buy some mascara. I’m hoping Revlon will offer me their Remarkable Definition and Massive Volume the commercials always promise. Oh well, I can only dream.
As far as my eyebrows go ... some hairs have always stuck around but now I’m noticing a few new ones there too... of course, not just where they should be. I may have to pluck some out once they get fuller and longer. I seem to be sprouting all over the place. Soon I’ll need to start shaving my legs.
As far as the hair on my head goes, it’s coming in pretty good but a bit wiry ... not the soft and curly stuff. Well I won’t complain ... too much.
With hair sprouting everywhere ... it really does feel like Spring around here.
One simple way to make yourself more comfortable whiling battling breast cancer and the many side affects is to try to relieve tension in your body. The following exercise is an easy way to do this and hopefully give you some comfort.
Start by laying down on your back on a comfortable surface. Your bed works well.
Make sure you don't have noise and interruptions if possible.
You can use rolled up towles or a pillow to support any body part that is sore or very sensitive.
I use a small pillow under my neck and sometime a pillow under my knees.
Begin with your breathing. Try to take deep full breathes.
Take a mental check list of how all parts of your body feel. Notice if you are holding tension and try to release it.
As you begin to tense and then release your body be sure you don't tense so much that you get a muscle cramp. Also be sure you are well hydrated and have gone to the bathroom. Remember to keep breathing. Don't hold your breathe this only causes more tension.
Now you are ready.
Begin with your feet. Tense your feet for a few seconds then release.
Next tense your lower legs for a few seconds then release.
Now your upper legs. Tense and release.
Now your buttocks. Tense and release.
Move to your stomach and lower back. Tense and release.
Upper back and shoulders are next. Tense and release.
Arms. Tense and release.
Hands. Tense and release.
Neck and Head. Tense and release.
Last tense and release your face.
Do 3 or 4 deep breaths.
Now go through that mental check list again and see how your body feels.
You can do this exercise as many times as you want.
First thing this morning, I checked my emails and it’s a good thing I did because my buddy C from my Second Cup coffee group was wondering if I had registered for the ‘Living Well’ group at the Cancer Center. It’s going on this morning at 10:30... I thought it was next week and quickly got on the phone and registered.
This new group is for cancer patients interested in learning more about living well. It’s based on something called positive psychology ... trying to make normal life more fulfilling.
I look forward to this group as I do with any of the groups I join ... I can’t say enough about how much I value them. I’m always learning new coping skills. And of course there are always the people ... some familiar faces and new ones too. I enjoy the social interaction and listening to the stories of what other cancer folk are going thru.
Each week we will have some take home exercises to practice what we’ve learned. I’ll keep you posted.
Just got back from seeing the Onc and everything seems to be in good order. I keep telling her how happy I am with Xeloda as compared to the Taxotere I was on. She really is happy with how well I’m doing with the Xeloda. But she still goes through the list of obvious side effects ... mouth sores, diarrhea and cracks in my hands and feet. I said I am not experiencing any mouth sores, no diarrhea and also ...no skin cracks because I am ever so careful with moisturizing. She asked me take my socks off to make sure and she actually pointed out one spot at the base of my big toe that looked very dry. I’m glad she had a look.
Anyways, my Onc reminded me that she will be going on maternity leave starting next week. She gave me the name of the Dr that will be taking over and booked my next app and tests.
I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my next round of Xeloda. Not much more to report than that.
It’s been about a year and half since we went to our big mall ... West Edmonton Mall. It is so big ... we generally avoid it because it is just too much territory to cover. Yesterday tho, we felt like a challenge. We knew it was going to be busy because the traffic was just crazy on the way there and then finding a parking spot was a whole deal all in itself... everyone was circling around like vultures looking for a parking spot. Our strategy was to watch for someone leaving and then follow them to their car ... it worked.
We finally got in and boy was it busy, wall to wall people. Our first stop was to catch the seal performance at the water park. Then we walked around for about an hour. It wasn`t long before the thought of coffee crossed my mind and I scoped out a Second Cup. It has a stand-up bar with bar chairs; a nice break ... and then off we went. It didn`t take long before I noticed the bottoms of my feet felt like they were burning up... a side effect of Xeloda. I’m not sure what brought it on... all the walking that I did it or the fact that I was a bit over dressed ... way too warm.
I pushed it a little bit more and we ended up at Sears where D scooped up a couple of tops. Wow what a winter sale ... 60% off and a further 10% scratch card at the till. At this point my feet were really smoking hot so we stopped for a burger at the food court and then headed home.
I went back in my blog ... one year to see how I was feeling for 1 week. I remember feeling pretty down in the dumps as the Taxotere side effects were really rough. And the steroids just added to it. As I read my posts ... my first reaction was ... hey, I think I wrote pretty clearly. That surprises me because my brain was under such a chemo fog ... I wasn’t sure what I would find when I re-read some of my stuff.
As I read the posts, I remember feeling quite ill, moody and hopeless. I remember having terrible sleeps filled with nightmares and the days were filled with aches and pain and miserable feelings. The focus back then was to get through the day and then through the night ... and not much more. I remember feeling this was a one way experience ... I’d get worse and worse and then die.
Never did I think I would go onto a new chemotherapy that would give me back some quality of life. I feel so much better now.
My goal today in writing about my experience last year is to show that there is always hope.... things do change for the better.
I’m just back from the knitting group. The ladies here are knitting up a storm and creating some great looking scarves and shawls. There are some pretty cool patterns out there too, but I’m sticking with knitting a simple scarf.
It’s slow going for me because knitting is tough on my finger tips... and I don’t want them to crack either. So instead of going full bore, I chat a lot. I spoke with one lady who would like to connect with others with head and neck cancer. The surgery that these folks often have is out in the open for all to see. So I’m going to email her some of the oral cancer blogs I follow and see what groups are available here in Edmonton. I think it is so important to connect and help others.
Alright Edmonton ... clear your schedule for Sunday, February 28 from 5:00 pm onward for the Laughing for Cancer live auction and comedy show. Graham Neil from CTV will be hosting the event with comedians from Edmonton and all across Canada.
About Laughing for Cancer.... Audrew Grose, a local comedian started this benefit after losing his father-in-law in 2002. Laughing with Cancer is $175,000 short of their goal of raising one million dollars.
D and I went to the very first Laughing for Cancer event and laughed our faces off. It was so funny having local comics poke fun of all the thing going on here. We will give our support this year once again.
Yesterday I headed off to the grocery store to get some coffee. On the way back, the family next door were just pulling out of their driveway and I stopped to chat. It was a gorgeous sunny day to be out and about. R said ... “You have a few tuffs of hair showing from under your hat.” I whipped off my Beatles cap to show her... the same style cap that Ringo Starr used to wear way back when. I was so proud to show off my new found locks... especially since the Onc said hair won’t grow back under Xeloda.
My hair is coming in a bit greyer than before ... and it’s not a full head of hair either. But what the heck ... its hair and I’m not complaining.
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One of the things I’ve noticed about myself recently is that I’m more motivated to do stuff ... namely housework. When I was on Taxotere I couldn’t care less if there was an inch of dust on the furniture and the laundry was piled to the roof. To be honest, I didn’t care much about anything ... never mind housework.
But more recently, I’ve been interested in the shape my house is in. I actually feel like doing some house work instead of relying on D to do it. I think, having D do the housework has been a good experience for both of us. One of the good things that came out of him doing housework is that he purchased a squeeze mop for washing floors. I used get on all fours and do it the old fashioned way but not anymore. This weekend, I grabbed the bucket and mop and tried it out ...wow so much easier.
Anyways, yesterday I said to D ... “I’m so impressed with myself for doing so much this weekend or is it that I’m more impressed that I want to do these things”. “That you want to do these things.” he replied.
Cancer really amplifies everything in life and makes you think twice about every option. One of the hard questions that was asked during my oncologist visit was how would I feel about potentially giving birth to another child that I might not be around to raise very long. It's probably the question that resounded in my head most of the time during the weeks we spent visiting specialists and gathering as much information as we could about the situation. The fact is that the rate of recurrence of cancer within the first five years of remission for triple negative breast cancer survivors is much higher than for other survivors. But once you make it past the five-year mark, the chance of recurrence plummets dramatically. I'm nearing year two. And I feel awesome. I beat the odds of not being able to conceive; who says I can't beat the odds of living a cancer-free life for the next 70 years?
One huge pro of our situation: we are here in Canada, where I receive top-notch health care from the best medical specialists. I have an art therapist, a lymphatic drainage massage therapist, another registered massage therapist (for my shoulder pain due to the lymphedema), an acupuncturist, an oncologist, a high-risk pregnancy ob-gyn, a plastic surgeon (for my breast reconstruction, who's also going to monitor my pregnancy because of the TRAM flap surgery I had), and other medical resources that ensure that I have the best possible health I can. And the beauty of it all is that I only pay a small amount for all that (mostly for the massage therapy, acupuncture, and counselling, but I get reimbursed for that too), thanks to universal health care. On the health side, I have tons of people looking out for me.
As for the "what if's"...my answer to those devils is that no matter what happens, Baby Worrall Soriano is going to have two parents and two siblings who will always love him/her, and an army of aunties and uncles to guide him/her through this crazy world. We are rich in friends.
We see the ob-gyn this week, and we'll be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. And the week after, it's off to the oncologist to get a check-up on the fight against Monster C. In the meantime, I'll also make appointments with my lymphatic draining massage therapist to help me with my lymphedema, and with my acupuncturist, who luckily for me, is specialized in cancer and fertility!
We finally did it ... we bought a treadmill. Something we’d been talking about for the last year. Of course the unit came in million pieces ... some assembly required. Thank goodness for friends because B and D came by to help put it together. Tho the guys did a great job putting the treadmill together ... the key tab that goes with the treadmill was missing so we will have to call the 1 800 number to get one ordered in.
Thanks to B and D for the lovely chocolates and Valentine sprinkles.
Sorry, world, for not posting anything in seven months. Lots has been going on. I feel as if a lifetime of stuff has been crammed into a year. On February 11th, it was a year ago that I got my latest reconstruction surgery (ie, saline implants). It's been a year since the break-up of my marriage. So perhaps now is a good time for reflection.
Last April was probably the lowest point of my life ever. I fell into an abyss from the thought of having to rebuild my life yet again. It seemed as if my bad fortune was endless. But as you know, things started looking up when I was featured on Entertainment Tonight Canada. After that, I had a new sense of empowerment and confidence--something I hadn't experienced in years, perhaps even before my cancer diagnosis.
Toward the end of the summer, I made a trip to Los Angeles to be in my friend Irene's wedding. I hadn't been to LA since before my bilateral mastectomy--almost one and a half years. It was great to reconnect with friends and get some southern California sunshine. But something else was written in the stars. Irene's brother, Anton, and I started hanging out, partly because of all the wedding preparations. And we really connected...really REALLY connected. :) It wasn't long before we realized that we were meant to be together (god, this is starting to sound like the ultimate cheesy romantic comedy, but hey, it's the day before Valentine's Day, so deal with it).
In the meantime, my divorce was in full-swing, and with new love shining bright (sorry, I watch Days of Our Lives sometimes, so...you know), I had even more confidence that I could start a more promising life. But one shocker was that I happened to get pregnant. I consulted with my doctors, and I was told that it would be risky for me to carry a pregnancy given my cancer history. I've been in remission for less than two years, and the recommendation is to wait five-years post-treatment to carry a pregnancy. Typically, the hormone surge during a pregnancy would pose a higher risk of recurrence for a breast cancer survivor. However, little research has been done on the particular type of breast cancer I had--triple negative breast cancer--so it was a big question mark for me. Proceeding out of caution and also with the idea that I had to be as healthy as possible and be around for the two kids I already have, with a heavy heart I decided to terminate the pregnancy. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my entire life, and it was in the midst of all else that was going on.
I had an non-hormone IUD inserted during the procedure, as that is the only safe type of birth control for me. A few weeks later, I had an incredible pain in my pelvis. I went to the docs, and it was discovered during an ultrasound to check the placement of the IUD that I had ovarian cysts. They were non-malignant, but the pain I experienced was from one of them rupturing. The recommendation was that I go in for another ultrasound after a few weeks to see if the cysts would resolve themselves.
All along, I went to LA to visit Anton, and he came to Vancouver to visit me. Things were still going relatively smoothly with the divorce, and the kids seemed to be faring quite well with all these changes. So I went back in for another ultrasound in December, and right after that, went back to LA to visit Anton one last time before the holidays. When I returned from LA, I heard several messages from my doctor, asking me to make an appointment and come back in asap. I did so, and I found out that the IUD had been falling out slowly. I asked the doc if it were possible that I'd gotten preggers again, and she told me it was unlikely since the cervix would do its thing in response to the IUD still being there, despite not being in correct position. So I didn't give too much thought to it. I made an appointment to come back in when I returned from Pennsylvania after the holidays to get another IUD inserted.
However, while in PA, I discovered that I was indeed pregnant. Quite a shocker. Talk about going against all odds. I couldn't believe that this was happening again. I'm not a religious person, but I felt somehow that some higher power was trying to tell me something.
When I got back to Vancouver, I let my doctor know the news. It just so happened that I was also having my next six-month appointment with my oncologist. Anton came to Vancouver and went to the appointment with me, and I filled the doc in on what was going on with my body for the past four months (I had noted with some degree of disbelief that I had been pregnant TWICE during several of my friends' pregnancies in recent months). She asked what our decision was, and we had no idea. We wanted more information on my health and our options before making a decision about this pregnancy. So she set up appointments for us with a high-risk ob-gyn, a specialist in a fertility clinic, and I met with my plastic surgeon to ask her about the mechanics of experiencing a pregnancy with a TRAM flap. She also ordered up blood work, ultrasound, and x-ray.
The consensus among the doctors was that the pregnancy shouldn't increase my risk of recurrence because my cancer was hormone receptor-negative (look that up if you wanna know what the means). However, my risk of recurrence is still higher than usual because of the subset of cancer I had, but that's whether I'm pregnant or not. The plastic surgeon told me that I would have to have a c-section because I have no abdominals with which to push out a baby, and that they could just cut through the mesh in my abdomen (god, I'm like a fucking robot). And the fertility doctor told me that my options were very limited should I want to have a baby in the future because the success rate given my history is low. He said that just because I've been getting pregnant, does not mean that I'm fertile...I'm just lucky. And that if I'd been planning on having children in the future, I should go with this one now. Basically, this is a miracle baby.
My ultrasound, x-ray, and bloodwork all came back with positive news that I am cancer-free. So that piece of information was out of the way.
Weighing all this information and all the pros and cons that come with having a baby, Anton and I decided, after much considerable thought, to go ahead with having this baboose. Chloe and Mylo will have a sibling! I'm continuing to see the high-risk ob-gyn, and the plastic surgeon is monitoring the progress of the pregnancy because I'm the first TRAM flap patient she's had who's gone through a pregnancy post-surgery.
Things have been moving along. However, yesterday provided another cause for pause. I actually didn't want to bring this out into the open because it's quite personal and traumatizing, but because of the decisions other people have made, I have no choice but to address this disturbing issue.
In recent months, it had come to my attention that highly sexually explicit material on the internet had been associated with my name and image without my consent or knowledge. I took steps to make sure these sites were taken down, and I thought that this could be something left in the past. However, I discovered yesterday that this violation has been continuing even up to yesterday. The person or persons putting these disturbing stories and images of me out there has went so far as to link this crap to my real blogs. I'm trying to move past the gut instinct I have to curl up in a ball and think about how I feel like I'm being raped over and over again on the internet in front of countless people, but instead, focus on how I can get my life back once and for all, and have this bullshit be over with. I feel like if I air this shit, instead of hiding from this pervert like I had been, then perhaps he or she will cut the crap. I'm trying to get on with my life, and I need for these jackasses to knock it the fuck off. These actions not only endanger me, but also my family and friends.
So. There is a lot going on, yes? But I know I'm strong, and I know I am able to not only make it through all these challenges, but be of service to others. I'm starting a writing workshop business, and I'm finishing my memoir. And I hope that my stories--my TRUE stories--will have some relevance and provide reflection to other people. Cancer, divorce, sexual predators--weak. By the end of the year, all that will be under my foot, and my new family, my kids, and I can be happy and secure with our present and our future.
This morning, I went to the cancer clinic in the mall to meet the Knitting Group. The receptionist said ... remember ... it’s canceled for today. Last week the ladies reminded us at least three times but chemo brain here forgot.
So what to do ... I wandered around the mall for a while and even stopped in a couple of shops to look at what is in vogue these days. I notice hats and caps continue to be big ... that’s music to my ears. I figure if more people are wearing lids ... I won’t stick out too much.
After stopping for a coffee, I decided to drive over to a local park. It’s down in the river valley in middle of the city but you wouldn’t believe that because it is so quiet. Temperature is -17C (1F) ... so it’s a bit too chilly for a walk. Even so ... I saw one jogger, one cross country skier and one guy skating on the frozen man-made lake. I parked the car for a short time just to take in the serenity.
I then took a spin downtown on the main-drag to do a bit of site seeing ... the downtown is ever changing ... new buildings and reno’s going on everywhere. It was kind of fun just driving around for no reason at all.
Yesterday I had coffee with the Sears group. There were just four of us ... our fifth is in the hospital with unrelated cancer stuff and our sixth has a cold.
Two of the ladies brought pictures of family and friends to show. Would you believe we had them in three different formats ... first we had the standard 5X7” pictures, then a small photo book which was custom created and we had a portable digital picture frame. I thought the photo book was just beautiful … filled with different size snapshots of grandchildren. The portable digital frame was very cool too. It had a 3.5” display and carried up to 45 pictures. Oh my … is the world ever changing.
While looking at the pictures ... we were also checking in on how everyone was doing. Everyone appears to be keeping busy doing one thing or another. Poor health or not, there are things to be done.
As we were leaving, one lady said ... even tho sometimes it takes a bit of effort to get here... I am so glad I do because I always walk out feeling so rejuvenated. I’d have to say the same ... these meetings do something for the soul.
For awhile now ... I’ve wanted to clean up the look of my blog. And now Google Blogger has come along with a new feature to help me out. I’ve added a few tabs ... namely ... my bucket list and second is my diagnosis and treatment history.
The bucket list is something I have thought about a lot since I was first diagnosed in 2000 but had never put on paper. Then in 2008 when I was diagnosed with my Stage 4 cancer, I didn’t think I would have a future. Then I switched to Xeloda this all changed. Xeloda is a much more manageable chemotherapy and easier on my body. So much so, I’m feeling stronger and more hopeful. While I am feeling this good, I thought I’d throw down some thoughts as to what I’d still like to do ... set some goals ... track some accomplishments ... all to be a bit of a motivator.
As far as having the diagnosis and treatment tab ... I wanted to have that information available to me at a glance.
The new tabs are up now. Pls check them out and let me know what you think.
Yesterday I went to see my GP seeking relief from my dry itchy eyes. For the past month I`ve been using eye drops to help but I believe the real issue is the skin surrounding my eyes. At my last visit with my Onc a couple of weeks ago, I asked her if the itchiness could be the chemo seeping out my eyes ... I’ve heard that can happen. She said this wasn’t likely with Xeloda and referred me to my GP.
Just a bit of history ... all my life I’ve struggled with patches of dry scaly skin and two of those patchy areas are the corners of my eyes. Some years are better than others tho last year I didn’t have any symptoms. This year, it’s come on strong. I always wake up with puffy reddish itchy eyes.
After the exam, my Doc refilled a prescription for a mild cortisone cream. This stuff has worked great in the past. I`ll let you all know how this turns out.
Just got back from lunch with Audrey from Stage 3! Who, me? She is doing real good and looking even better. She is no longer under treatment and is back at work fulltime. It was nice to catch up on what she’s been up to.
This weekend we watched the Super Bowl. What a great game and the half time show was the best. The Who sure know how put on a performance.
Join us for Cards For Cancer Day! On or about Saturday April 10th, 2010 Spirit Jump and the team leaders around the world will bring bags of cards to their local cancer centers to be given to those battling cancer. Cards can be collected by asking family members, friends, neighbors, schools, youth groups or just about anyway you can think of getting them. Cards can be handmade or store bought and should have a positive message to help JUMP the SPIRIT of someone who is battling cancer.
I met with the knitting group at the Cross. Today, I tend to talk more and knit less because my fingers are sensitive and the constant contact with the yarn dries my finger tips out. But for me ... the interaction is more fulfilling than crafting.
Many of the gals are just learning to knit and some are seasoned vets. One lady is a talented writer. She brought with her some poetry she had written and shared it with the group. I asked if she considered publishing a book and she said it was very difficult for an unknown writer to get published. That is too bad because she seems very good.
We often talk about our cancer experiences ... today I spoke with a young gal who had gone back to work. She struggles with her thoughts and feelings. The idea of always wondering if it ... the cancer, will come back, weighs heavily on her mind. She also wonders why she is still so tired, why the memory is still so bad, is every ache and pain a concern ... will she ever be free of the fear of its return.
Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend. We used to work together so there wasn’t a shortage of conversation.
K follows my blog and asked me how I resolved the dryness problem with my feet. She said this has been a really bad year for her with regards to dry and cracking feet. Well, I said it actually takes a bit of time and effort. What I did was ... for a week solid ... some intense moisturizing. I took gauze or those cotton make-up remover pads or even panty liners ... yes you heard me right, panty liners ... and put a dollop of Udder Cream on them and taped them to my feet with medical tape. I would do it once every morning and kept it on for 24 hours. It felt weird but worth it for my feet to soften up.
Just applying lots of cream or lotion is not enough; these areas need to be covered up so that the moisturizer has a chance to work its way in.
Yesterday I received a letter from the insurance company that my disability was extended past the two year mark. Tho the letter brought good news ... I burst into tears. At the bottom of the letter was a familiar name ... cc’d to someone I worked with in HR. I was flooded with thoughts of how much I enjoyed my work and the people I worked with. I am missed the interaction, the challenges, the opportunities ... I miss feeling like I am contributing to something meaningful.
Last week I had coffee with the Sears group and I mentioned to the ladies that I no longer had that urge to go back to work ... that I had filled my life with other things now. I guess that was BS. I do miss work... I miss it a lot.
Well after shedding a few tears I said to myself ... remember, you are very fortunate to have disability insurance. I needed to remind myself how many people with cancer are also in a financial bind. After giving myself that short lecture ... my moodiness is over.
My January 25 CT scan showed an increase of fluid around my lungs. I was a bit surprised because during the month of December I was feeling so good. I was coughing very little and didn’t have any real signs of shortness of breath. Well recently things have changed. I have been coughing a bit more and have been experiencing some shortness of breath ... like when I come up from the basement after putting laundry in, I need to sit and rest a short while.
Last night I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep so I took some Benadryl before going to bed. What I find with Benadryl is that it settles my cough down and allows me to breathe easier therefore allowing me to fall asleep faster. Well it worked, I fell asleep real easy but I ended up waking myself with a wheezing sound coming from my lungs ... almost a whistling sound. I shifted my position a couple of times ... which stopped that annoying noise. Sounds coming from my lungs is common for me ... I often experience a crackling or wheezing sounds when I lay down to sleep but last night it was loud enough to wake me up.
Anyways, I’m sure hoping that fluid starts going down.
He will be in Edmonton for two day on August 25th - 26th. I hope to get a glimpse of him when he comes.
Another thing I’d like to mention about Lance’s organization is that they put together a quarterly magazine called Armstrong Quarterly. I’ve signed up for the free on-line version. It’s very cool and informative.