Posted in breast cancer, health

YES, MAMMOGRAMS HURT, BUT…

Get your mammogram!

I get asked often, “does it hurt?”

Yes… BUT

It does not hurt as much as 2nd degree radiation burns during treatment.

It does not hurt as much as the old school c-section style hysterectomy I had to get because I had to take meds to keep the cancer from returning that had the side effect of possible uterine cancer.

It does not hurt as much as a biopsy.

It does not hurt as much as a lumpectomy.

It’s cheaper than cancer treatment.

A mammogram led to early detection and I know that saved my life. It was worth 4 short, intense squeezes that take less than 10 minutes!

Posted in health

REST

LauderdalebytheSea-1-64

Grateful for times of rest. I depend on them more than people know. Having an “invisible” chronic illness isn’t easy, especially when I still want to go at life full speed.

I am ever convinced that no matter how much I explain how I feel/what I am going through, there will be those who see what they wish and I’ve wasted my breath. That’s ok. Their obliviousness doesn’t erase my truth, even though if that worked in this case, I’d embrace it.

Believe it or not, I do not like how I feel right now. I do not like being achy and tired all the time. I have three weeks of great feeling, then the bottom falls out. The five pounds I just lost comes back over night. The blanket of fatigue comes back and rests on me.

I don’t have it figured out and my doctors don’t seem to want to stretch themselves to help me to.  I will deal with that and move on regardless.

Sometimes all you have is your own wits and will. I will use both.

Posted in breast cancer, health, S. A. D., tamoxifen

S. A. D. AND TAMOXIFEN WITHDRAWAL

I am not a big fan of the fall time change.  To be honest, I’m not a fan of time change for daylight “savings” at all.

I grew up in Indiana, where until recently, Daylight Savings Time did not exist. Until I moved to Houston, I had no idea how to change the time on any appliance or vehicle that I owned. The only reason I knew that time had “changed” everywhere else is because network television shows came on later or earlier.

Though I’ve been off Tamoxifen now for 2.5 months and the improvements have been slow but steady, I must now prepare myself for the inevitable effects of S. A. D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I know it’s a good thing, a very, very good thing, that I will not be on Tamoxifen while I deal with SAD (dealing with both made winters hell), but I am not looking forward to what the time change brings for me.

A good friend reminded me that SAD was coming and I needed to adjust my expectations of how I’d feel free from Tamoxifen to accommodate what SAD does to me.  She’s known me for twenty years and was even my roommate for a time so she has experienced SAD me firsthand.  Come Spring, she reminded me, I will really notice the difference between Tamoxifen Me and Free-From-Tamoxifen Me and I needed to be patient with myself (which she knows is a huge challenge for me).

Many people in my life have been waiting for Free-From-Tamoxifen Me.  I feel a bit of pressure to perform differently to adjust to their expectations – that I will snap back to the person they remember before I had cancer.  I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be the person I was before I had cancer.  The Cancer Crucible was awful and merciless, but it changed me forever. Now that I’ve accepted that change, I can’t go back to Pre-Cancer Me. I wouldn’t even know how if I wanted to do so.

One difference during this SAD season is that I will not be on Tamoxifen, which I hope will reduce the fatigue and depression that usually hits me this time of year.  I have my artificial sunlight lamp at work and I am moving during the day at my standing desk and I am going on vacation, which will provide a tremendous boost.

Acknowledging my limitations is more difficult than people who don’t have physical or emotional limitations could possibly understand. I am comfortable in my own skin, in my own brain, in my own emotional state. I confront my limitations head-on and try to stay ahead of the oncoming storm. Most of the time, I’m victorious. Sometimes, I am not.

Most people love me anyway and appreciate the effort I still have to exert to go to social gatherings, but there are some who still roll their eyes when I decline an invite.  These same people have made snarky comments to me when I do show up at events or gatherings.  I chalk that up to their immaturity and lack of empathy, but it’s very difficult for me to let those comments slide when I’ve made significant effort that they cannot possibly understand just to show up.  Those comments and judgements make me less inclined to put in the effort if I know those people will be in attendance.  I don’t need the drama, especially if I’m already fatigued.

I have more energy now, that’s a fact, but that doesn’t mean I will jump back into the deep end of the social event pool, especially when some types of events or people at those events suck the energy right back out of me.  I’m still going to be choosy about what I choose to do and whom I choose to do those things with.  It is what it is.  Even if all the planets align and it’s the perfect event for me to attend, sometimes, I still can’t and I have to let myself stay in timeout regardless of whether anyone understands that or not.

That said, I want to hang out with my friends, but I need to dial back the expectations for myself – expectations of others be damned. I’m easing back into the fast lane at my own pace, with my own goals, with my own agenda.  The only person I have to please is me. It’s amazing how true that statement really is.

Next week, I will be on vacation with my best friend. I have been looking forward to this for countless months.  I am thrilled that I will be able to pour more of myself into this time together than I have been able to over the past few years, but I will admit, there are going to be times when I am not going to be able to keep up and I know she will understand that.  She’s worth any effort I have to reach deeply for and I know we will have a great time together. Her understanding is worth its weight in gold.

I think the reason I have adjusted to this aspect of my life is because I have adjusted the expectations I have for myself. There is no huge gap between what I want to do and what I can do. I am happier than I’ve ever been because I’ve made that adjustment – and others would be happier if they’d adjust their expectations of me as well.  Their happiness, however, is not my responsibility.  I can’t change others, I can only change me.

Posted in breast cancer, health, tamoxifen

LIFE POST-TAMOXIFEN, 2 MONTHS

Today marks the end of my second month of freedom from Tamoxifen.  I can honestly say that stopping the consumption of such a life-altering drug has been one of the best choices I’ve made in a long time.  I appreciate most having my brain back and having a boost in energy.

This week I have needed my brain to be at it’s best, and it has responded beautifully. If I was still on Tamoxifen, I would no doubt be curled up in a corner of my office sobbing from the stress of not being able to respond. Instead, I have been able to keep up with this week’s blistering pace.

The joint pain has decreased quite a bit. I don’t doubt that the Tamoxifen hasn’t fully left my system, but every day I get closer to feeling fully myself again.

I look forward to the coming months as I continue to regain bits and pieces of me that I’ve lost.

Posted in bariatric surgery, health

LIFE SUPPORT

I did something Friday I thought I would never do – I joined a gym.  I had been thinking about it for awhile, but didn’t think I could afford to do that. In fact, I really can’t afford to do that right now, but I can’t afford not to, either. The money part will work itself out.

I joined LA Fitness, which is literally two lights down the street. It has a pool (the biggest selling point), it’s close to my apt, and many opportunities for group fitness (swim, yoga, Zumba, spin).  The staff is very kind and enthusiastic and helped get me a deal I could live with.

I start with a trainer on Monday after work. Very excited. I want to get healthy and give my body as much help during the recovery from surgery.  I also want to get into the habit of exercise so I can step back into the routine as easily as possible.

Yes, I’m still having the surgery. Do I think I could lose weight without it? Yes, some, but not enough, and definitely not quickly enough. I think disciplining myself for exercise now will help the surgery’s success and help me keep the weight off long-term.

I was not born a gym rat, but as nice as LA Fitness is, I know I could become one. I am committed to a year of pushing my body to fitness, Sassy style!

Posted in about shae, bariatric surgery, health, weight loss

TWO THINGS I’M WONDERING ABOUT POST-SURGERY

I had these thoughts today about life post-surgery:

1. What if my nose doesn’t lose any weight but the rest of my face does?

2. What if I lose weight in my feet? Will I get shorter? Will my shoes still fit?

These things may not be important to you, but as someone who has grown up with a German-inspired nose, I wonder about how big the schnoz will look if my cheeks aren’t so poofy.

I have invested quite a bit of money in shoes the last two years. If I end up losing a shoe size, I am buying stock in DSW before I start feeding my shoe fetish again.

Yes, these are the things I think about during the day. Random-tamoxifen brain at work.

Posted in about shae, allergies, bariatric surgery, breast cancer, health, relationships, weight loss

ONE OF THOSE DAYS (I want my life back)

I had a low grade fever most of the day, and though I wanted to be home in bed, since I have dismally few sick days I pushed myself to go work. I had wanted to go out tonight and be with friends, but the fever didn’t leave.

I cried all the way home. I am more than frustrated with the state of me right now. I am a breast cancer survivor, 1.5 years now, and though I got to live I didn’t get my life back.

Don’t read that as I have nothing to live for, I do. I just never thought that this far down the road I’d still be trying to get my legs steady and back under me. I’ve spent all month wishing the color pink didn’t exist as it is a bright pastel reminder that though I’m a survivor, I’m still trying to find my way back to myself.

It’s incredibly difficult to express how I feel, and even more difficult when I can’t even figure out what to say. People who have not had breast cancer or an illness that totally changes their lives have no idea what I’m going through. For them, I no longer have breast cancer. Everything is great, right?

WRONG.

I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I swim in a pretty steady stream of optimism most of the time. As I wait for weight loss surgery that will hopefully turn some health issues around for me, impatience is an unwelcome nag – a constant reminder that I’m not where I want to be.

I’m actually ill more than I let on. I catch everything these days. Compound that with my daily dose of allergy havoc, and my body feels lousy most of the time. I am saddled with a profound tiredness every day. My brain, when not having Tamoxifen/Lexapro delays and lost moments, is actually pretty active and eager to move life along.

I know many people whose bodies do not keep up with their brains, wishes, and hopes. I am now one of them. Throw aging on top of that mess and I feel ancient in my bones. I’m not ready to relinquish my spirit to that notion.

Doctors and friends promise me that after surgery, the energy will return as the weight falls off. I will sleep better. I won’t have to worry about my heart’s current issues. My plantars fascia won’t have as many issues carrying weight around. My knees will stop hurting. I won’t be sick all the time. I might get to stop taking a pill or two.

I want to believe all that. I really do. On days such as this, however, I just can’t, especially when I feel truly alone right at this moment. I know that will pass, but I can’t tell you how much I miss presence, something I had a satisfying portion of before cancer. Now, I know I don’t have enough. Thank God for the friends who meet me more than halfway when I need it and especially for the ones who come 90% of the way when 10% is all I have to give.

I’m so thankful for the few faithful that are ever-present, the ones whom I’m never out of mind when I’m out of sight and the ones who are never out of sight when I feel out of my mind. I love you all and I’m grateful you are on this journey with me.

Now for more meds and begging God for a good night’s sleep.

Posted in bariatric surgery, breast cancer, health, tamoxifen, weight loss

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TAMOXIFEN and by the way I’m having weight loss surgery #bcsm

On August 21st, I celebrated my one year anniversary of taking the cancer-preventative drug, Tamoxifen. I’ll be honest, it has not been an easy year, and I’ll be more honest, I am not happy that I have four years left to take it. This drug, however, will help me not get breast cancer again, so I take it, grudgingly.

This far into the post-cancer journey, I am by no means back to normal or happy with where I am in the recovery/moving on process. I am, however, taking steps to ensure that I do move on, and I do more than recover. 

Last month, I went to see my new allergist, Dr. D. Dr. D has really helped me so far, and while I am still allergic to most everything I tested for 7 years ago, I am happy to report I can eat chicken again! I have eaten so much chicken in the last three weeks, I may cluck with joy.  I am so happy to have chicken as an option again.

Dr. D is going to start me on shots in a couple of weeks. I really like her.  Unlike my last allergist, she listened to me, asked questions, and wants me to be a well-rounded person. Dr. D, coincidentally, studied Tamoxifen in college.  I’ve been able to get a lot more information and support about this med than I have in a while.

So while I’m getting that part of my life under control, I now am onto the next phase of my new life. A year ago, when I started taking Tamoxifen (which makes your body think it’s pregnant and holds onto every pound), my oncologist said that since fat stores estrogen and my cancer was estrogen positive, I needed to be about 100 pounds less than I am now. I told her that was highly unlikely any time soon.

“Then we need to talk surgery,” she strongly suggested.

“Surgery?”

“Weight loss surgery. Bypass, I’m thinking.”

At that moment, I was not ready to hear that I needed surgery.  I told her no way and she left it alone for the time being.

In April, at another checkup, my oncologist noted I’d only lost 7 pounds. I felt estatic over that number considering how tired I’d been.  She was not amused.  She mentioned surgery again. I was not amused.

I started doing research on bariatric surgery and what it would entail. I began to deal truthfully with myself as well. I’d been overweight since I was 8 years old and for various reasons, I had not been able to lose weight and keep it off, and in the last 5 years or so, losing was nearly impossible.

I talked with three friends who have had this surgery and the consensus seems to be this:

  1. Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out.
  2. It’s a long, very long journey.
  3. Bariatric surgery takes a complete life change to make it work. It’s only a tool. The rest is  up to the person.
  4. SO VERY WORTH IT!

I have talked with a few more friends who have had either banding surgery or other forms of weight-loss surgery. All say it was difficult, but worth it.

After a lot of self examination, I decided that if I was going to get to this magical land on the other end of the scale, then I was going to need help.  I rarely ask for help. In fact, having to admit I needed help with my weight was a big barrier. A friend told me that knowing I needed help was, “discernment.”

Last week I had another followup with my oncologist and I told her I was ready to have the surgery. She seemed surprised but glad I was taking this seriously, as I was back up 6 pounds and in one year had only lost a pound. I was just happy I hadn’t really gained weight beyond that.

She referred me to the Davis Clinic here in Houston (thedavisclinic.com).  Dr. Garth Davis had a show on TLC a few years ago called, “Big Medicine.” He is the surgeon I am going to see on September 21. I am excited to have this moving forward and ready to get this part of my life under control.  Not only will I get the surgery, I will be seeing a psychologist and a dietician.

My plan is to live a long life. Getting the weight off will help bring that to reality. I know that once I get the weight off, with God’s help and with support I can keep it off.

I have already gotten many comments and negative feedback. Mostly from skinny people or people who lose weight easily or people who can’t imagine themselves going without their favorite foods for a very, very long time.

I am drawing the boundary line right here and now.  Keep your negative comments to yourself. I do not need to hear your negativity. It will not make me change my mind. I’m going forward with this.  If you can support me that would be wonderful, if not, I can appreciate standing up for what you believe in, and I will miss you.

I will be updating quite a bit more now, as keeping a blog during this transition will be very helpful. I’m getting excited about the positive changes I’m making in my life and I’m ready to be the healthiest I’ve ever been!