Thursday, March 31, 2011

False Alarm!

April Fools Day (how ironic?!)

I'm back from the doctor's office and I DO NOT HAVE A PULMONARY EMBOLISM - YEAAAAAA!!!! I am still in some mystery pain, so I need to rest and watch it. But it looks like I'm going to live. The doctor gave me some special, high dose ADVIL. I have my 6 month check up with my oncologist next week, which the primary care physician thought was good timing.

The ups and downs of recovery from a mastectomy are really hard. Ten steps forward, then a setback. I went into this with full knowledge that "complications" were the rule rather than the exception. But it catches me off guard so very much. ^ months ago, I could never have imagined any of this. I had this strong, sure body. Thank heaven for that. I'm getting strong again, but today it doesn't feel like it. My rational self knows that I'm tired, but I'm going to get up and move forward again.


My 2 weeks of half-time work went incredibly well. I was able to maintain my stamina and feel like I was on top of it. It was really good to feel the support of my colleagues, most of whom I hadn't seen in months. I felt competent and happy.

My first week of full-time working went pretty well. I went in smokin', as if I had never left, and stayed late a few times to try to catch up with some things I felt were pressing. A bit too much, too soon. I felt like an over-cooked noodle by Thursday afternoon. I spent Friday at home in bed.

My second week back to work was better. I was very aware of pacing myself, and leaving at an appropriate hour to come home and relax. Slow and steady wins the race. It was a good, productive week.

This week has been HARD! Monday morning at 9:00 am, I was in pain and went to lay down in the nurse's office. No fever, no visible bruises. Just pain wrapping around my ribs from back to front. I made it through the day, but was in increasing pain all evening. Tuesday - home and couldn't get off the couch. Made a doctor's appointment for Wednesday. They thought it might be Lymph edema.

Wednesday's doctor's appointment involved a blood test, a trip to the hospital for a chest x-ray, and a prescription for Mega-Advil. I checked voicemail at 7pm and heard 2 urgent messages warning me that the blood test wasn't good and that I should probably drive myself to the ER for an MRI.

Not knowing what any of this meant, I was VERY FREAKED OUT. I called the doctor "on call". We talked for a good long while, and he said that while the blood test signaled that I might have a clot in my lung, he didn't think my symptoms or vitals presented badly enough to spend the night in the ER. He told me to call if anything changed, but to get in to the office first thing in the morning.

By noon today, the pulmonary embolism theory was ruled to be unlikely, and I was told to go home, rest for another day or 2, and continue on the Mega-Advil. My husband and I were so stressed out before the doctor's appointment, we practically fell down and pounded the earth in relief. I still have to go back to the oncologist next week, but I'm not worried about it.

I'm wiped out, but relieved. And I am using my words. I know I told the story, but how do I feel? I feel like a freak. I feel alone in this uncharted place of recovery. People who love me and are close to me have been so great, but I get freaked out by pity, and I'm not 100% comfortable at accepting nurturing. It would be a good thing to really connect with someone who's lived something similar. I worry that not too many others can really understand this.

Sunshine and spring would help. Oh, Vermont! 4-6 inches of snow predicted for tomorrow!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Up and Downs...

March 30, 2011

My words are stuck in my throat, or maybe just frozen in my brain again.
I'd rather go BLANK than go to fear.
A little pain - a little swelling. Blood test. Chest x-ray. Urgent message.

I'm not going to FEAR or PANIC. Not at all. I'm just a little shaken. Breathe.

All is well. It's OK to sit with a little bit of scary. I can try it on, and not have it take me out. I can come back to peaceful by myself.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Life Marches Forward

March 9, 2011

The sun is shining, although we are still deep in snow. 3 days ago, we had our biggest storm of the year. I'm still running on a treadmill, but I'm feeling strong! I'm yearning to run outside, but I don't want to risk a fall or be hit by a car. I've survived all this surgery and healing. It would be incredibly ironic to have a running accident now. So I'm happy to have access to the treadmill.

This is my second week back at work. I'm working half-time. 11:00 to 3:00 Monday through Friday. I'm running most mornings before I go in to the office. I'm tired, but proud at how well I'm doing. It was scary to go back to work, but here I am. I'm doing it. Next week I go to full time 7:45 - 3:30. This will mean waking up VERY early if I want to keep up my running. I'm going to try.

This week, I've been packing up in the evenings for the next day. I thought it would be a good idea to have a week to practice showering at the gym and going straight to work from there. I pack my breakfast, my shower stuff, my clothes, towel, lunch, and work stuff, which takes good planning and organization. The first day I did it, I arrived at the gym - minus a jog bra. I just laughed and ran without it. My new breast held up better than the other one!

I had enough time after my run today to stop at a coffee shop and write this. but I do need to pack up and get to work now.

More soon. I've been having lots of thoughts and insights as I prepare to immerse myself back into my pre-mastectomy world of work. It's hard to stay on top of the anxiety, but having a great shrink helps a lot.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Running - More Thoughts on 2/17

Let me say that I'm already feeling a little better.

It's been over 3 weeks since I've run outdoors. I have been running on the treadmill, and doing pretty well with it. I've totally gotten over my vanity - the bandaging on my breast totally sticks out and is hard to miss under my running clothes. But I've gotten to where it does feel a little like a badge of honor. The truth is, we all think other people notice far more about us than they really do. Most people who work out at my gym are just doing their own thing. So I have been running on the tread mill, and I feel pretty strong.

It's been cold, windy, and icy on the sidewalks. I have not wanted to risk a fall since the last surgery, 3 weeks ago. So, I haven't ventured outside. It's 40 degrees out right now, and THERE IS NO REASON for me to pass up this opportunity. I'm going out. even for a very short one. I'll take my phone. I can call a cab if I change my mind.

My running is such a part of my identity that it's hard to be realistic about what my body is ready for. I think I'm getting there. At first, I thought "OH! No problem. I'll be able to do *%!$%# miles by June and can sign up for &*(%$@# race. I've changed my mind set. Now, I am very proud of running on good days. If I've had a good running week, I know I may need to cut back the next week. I still get pretty exhausted. My goals are modest, and I expect bumps in the road and setbacks. I have learned this over the past few months. And I am usually at peace with it.

Running has been such a gift in my life. It calms me when I'm not calm, and it boosts my spirits so high. I'm so happy I can run again, even though it's very different than before the mastectomy. I still feel like a wild animal when I run. It's not always about the distance or the speed.

I'm getting out there... I'm still in PJs, but I'm getting out there.

Sun's Out. But I've got the Blues...

February 17, 2011


What's up?

My last surgery was 3 weeks ago. I now have a nipple. It looks pretty good, but my range of motion is tight again. Not really limited, but tight. It feels like pulling and tugging. It still doesn't feel like my body. Today, I feel like I have an alien stuck to my chest. I want to take it off.

These are not productive thoughts. This is my body. My new breast is not an alien. My new breast IS REAL, and it is a real, living part of my body that I will learn to respect and love. It has generated veins that I can see through my skin, just like throughout the rest of my body. The newness of sensation will become unremarkable over time. I know these things. I am so very, very amazed and awed by what my body has gone through and created - a whole new pathway of life to a reconstructed organ! Still, today I'm on the verge of tears.

Andy and I are going to the Caribbean this Saturday for a week, then I go back to work. It would make so much more sense to be excited about the trip, and I am. It just seems so scary to go back to work. If today was a work day, I don't know what I'd do. I've been practicing waking up early so that I'll be ready for that schedule. This morning, I just couldn't wake up until after 8:00.

I'm trying to pull it together to get out in the sunshine. It's probably already 30 degrees - very manageable here in Vermont. Sunshine helps trigger some brain chemicals that make people feel happier. So I must go outside.

Depression is part of the healing process. It won't last. It's ok to be depressed. It won't kill me.

Here I go...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26

I'm not excited. Maybe I should be, but I'm not. Today I get my new nipple constructed. It's supposed to be pretty painless, but it still feels scary, scary, scary.

This morning, I awoke from a dream in which I had made it through the procedure with ease. In the dream, I thought "That went well. I barely remember the procedure". Next, I looked down my shirt and thought "That looks pretty good!". But then the new nipple fell off. What really sucked was that the surgeon had left already. Bleach!!!!!! I woke up at that point. It was about 5 a.m.

I'm killing time in a very noisy breakfast place. It's my second breakfast. And very delicious. Chipolte Cheddar Egg Sandwhich on a jalepeno breakfast roll. YUM. I'm too anxious to go for a run, so I figured I'd keep eating. I should probably stop so that I'm digested enough for the Valium to work at 1:00.

I've been sending out messages to friends and to the universe that I need hugs. They are coming in. My friends in Iowa, Maryland, my daughters, and more. I'm soaking in the love, and I'm actually calming down. Maybe I should go home and take a shower.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Life

I am 52 years old, and healthy. I have 2 daughters, ages 20 and 23. I'm married to a man I love with all my heart. I have 2 step children, one is 25 and one is 22. I'm about 5' 1' tall, and slender. I have 2 young dogs and 2 elderly cats. And I just had a mastectomy.

I have been a teacher for 23 years. I teach high school age special education. I specialize in career education and transition from high school to adult life. I love my job, my colleagues, and my students. I also love education and learning. I am an ongoing student of computers and technology, which is a foreign country to me - but fascinates me. I love swimming in warm ocean water and snorkeling. I just learned how to stand up on a surfboard. I live in a cold climate and I love the snow, although I'm not too fond of freezing weather.

I am a runner. I started running later in life, at about the age of 35. I ran my first marathon at age 46, and then 2 more marathons at age 48. All were in Boston qualifying time. But I don't run for the races. I will never run the
Boston Marathon. I love to run for the joy of it. Although I discovered it later in life, it is one of the few of things I feel like I was born to do. When I run, I feel like a pony. I feel a boundless freedom.

I had my first bout with breast cancer in 1999, when I was 41 years old and a single mother. Thank heavens it was in a very early stage, and not invasive. I had a lumpectomy (actually, it took 3 surgeries to get "a clear margin") and radiation. It was painful and scary for me and my girls, but as time went on, it became a distant memory. I got used to the shape of my altered breast, and life went on. I got married again and life became a wonderful adventure. I put the cancer behind me and thought I was done with it. It rarely entered my mind at all.

11 years after my first diagnosis, I had an annual mammogram. And there it was again. In the same breast.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Here goes...

It's been 3 months since my mastectomy. I think it's time to find some words.