I’m Back. I think.

Well, it’s been awhile. Is anyone still out there? Is anyone reading this? If you’re still out there and reading my blog, thank you.

This blog has been on my mind for awhile. Why did I start it? Why did I stop it? I can’t even really answer the first question so we’ll go to the second question – I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 24, 2013. That diagnosis sent me into a black hole. I just didn’t function like I used to and lost interest in everything. That is the answer to question #2.

I was released from care last summer (5 year mark) and still no interest in blogging until recently. Until today.

As I was heading into to town today for lunch, I saw an older woman (70+) wearing waders and holding a stabbing device (like a spear) along the side of a creek. She was wading into the bustling creek with purpose. I started wondering what was she looking for? There can’t be edible-sized fish in there, right? Was she looking for frogs? Maybe for her grandchild’s terrarium? Or for eating later? I’m still wondering. Still. Wondering.

As I was driving back to the house after lunch (two hours later), I became struck by another scene. This new scene occurred by the same bustling creek where I had earlier witnessed the woman with the spear. I saw two young boys (maybe 9 & 6), a large toy John Deere truck and a grandma-type person. Both of the boys were wearing rain boots and had clearly been creek-stomping. The younger boy was holding the grandma’s hand and was dragging her along the creek toward the older boy.  The older boy was pushing the toy truck with water sloshing over the sides toward the grandma and the younger boy. This all seemed normal to me until I noticed grandma carrying a sledge hammer in her left hand while holding the younger boy’s hand with her right. Did the boys catch something that needed a beating? What was in the truck sloshing around? A frog? A chipmunk? A lizard? A squirrel? A snake? Did any of those animals require a beating? 

I can’t stop thinking about it. When I’m a grandma will I be called forth to carry a sledge hammer? I surely hope not.

Something New

I’ve started something new and I’m really excited about it! Check this out – Jennifer Engledow Photography.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve discovered something about myself. I LOVE taking pictures. I love everything about photography ~ taking the pictures, looking at the pictures, editing the pictures and showing others my pictures.

With this new enterprise, I’ve been really busy and haven’t had time for writing, Okay, that’s not quite honest.

If I were being honest, I would say that writing has become very challenging for me and I’ve lost the drive to put my thoughts down into words. I think about it a lot and wonder why. Does it have something to do with my breast cancer diagnosis? I think I did suffer from depression at the end of 2013. Was that it? Is it the Tamoxifen doing a number on my brain? Who knows.

I do know that I want to get back to it on a regular basis so consider today my first day back.

And, here is a photo for you to enjoy as well:

IMG_8092

 

 

 

 

Life after Breast Cancer: New Normal Part 2

Radiation Fibrosis. What the hell is that? I actually just learned myself. In February, I had started noticing that my left side ached and my left arm had lost a lot of mobility.

From About.com/Breast Cancer

Definition: Fibrosis is the formation of scar tissue. Fibrosis can occur as a result of radiation treatments. While radiation is being given, it affects cancer cells and healthy tissue that is nearby. In healthy tissue, small blood vessels in the area may be damaged or sealed off. When this happens, the affected tissue no longer gets enough nourishment. Radiated healthy tissue may then “fibrose” or scar. That scar tissue will feel firm or may feel like a mass or even like a recurrence of cancer. Fibrosis may also occur naturally in breast tissue that has fibrocystic changes.

In a serendipitous moment in early February, a lovely woman at work who also happens to be a breast cancer survivor asked me if I had started my physical therapy yet for my arm. Physical therapy? She had experienced the same discomfort and loss of mobility and swore by the physical therapy.

So, after contacting my breast surgeon at the urging of my coworker, I was put in contact with a physical therapist that specialized in post-radiation trauma and lymphedema. Man, I’m glad I made that call.

But, as helpful as these sessions have been, they have been a bit uncomfortable.. Let me back up a bit. Last summer, I got used to every Tom, Dick and Mary marking on, taking pictures of, feeling, smashing and viewing my jubblies. Since then, my modesty has returned intact. Returned just in time for new weirdness to begin.

Why are the sessions weird? Essentially, twice a week I’ve been receiving a breast massage. What’s not to like about a breast massage, right? Um, it’s not sensual. Have you ever had a deep tissue massage? Twice a week I get a deep tissue massage on my boob, armpit and side. It hurts like hell.

Ladies, I know you know how uncomfortable a pap smear is. That awkward chat with your OBGYN doctor about your weekend plans trying to ignore the fact that she’s examining your hooha? What if that moment lasted three times as long?

With my physical therapy sessions, the massage part lasts about twenty to twenty-five minutes. That’s A LOT of awkward conversation to be had. Sometimes I run out of things to say. For those that know me well, that may come as a shock. However, for me, the silence is worse than the rambling chatter so I ramble. On and on and on.

My poor therapist. She sure is a good listener. Do I owe her a parting gift? I mean, I’ve been seeing her intimately for two months now. Is there protocol for our eventual good-bye?

Aside from the awkwardness, the treatments have helped me tremendously and I’m so glad my coworker repeatedly urged me to make that call. My husband said  “What if you hadn’t called your breast surgeon?” I don’t want to think about it – it’s made that much of a difference.

My new normal is a pill box (I didn’t think that would happen for another twenty years), daily stretches and strengthening exercises, doctor appointments with my medical oncologist every six weeks, mammograms every six months and appointments once year with my radiation oncologist. I’m working on accepting my new normal because, as it was brought to my attention the other day, it’s better than the alternative.

I do look forward to the day when breast cancer isn’t always on my mind.

Eventually, that day will get here.

 

 

 

 

The End is Near

IMG_1351 IMG_1352

Our bathroom drama is over. These are pictures of my new bathroom shower and I’m really happy with it!

However, you should stay tuned because we will be doing the kids’ bathroom near the end of the month and that should generate some more drama. Our house projects never go smoothly. Ever.

For other positive news, I only have four radiation treatments left! My last treatment is Friday, September 6th. This goes without saying so, of course, I’m going to say it anyway – I can’t wait for this to be over!

It has been a surreal time in my life. It’s strange getting up every morning and starting your day with radiation therapy. I think about three hundred strangers have seen, touched, stickered and/or sharpied my left breast. Okay, maybe not three hundred, but at least fifty. And, it’s just weird. That’s all. Why so many? Beginning in August, there was a new student observer in the room each day with the techs as they lined me up for Thor. The techs would ask, “This is Jane or John, a new student. Is it okay if they observe your treatment?”

Sure. Why not? I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

But, I will say that everyone at the Cancer Center has been wonderful – I cannot complain about my care.

The side effects are really settling in – the fatigue is crazy! Also, my breast and armpit are soooo burned. And, I have scar tissue in my left armpit from my breast surgery. How does that happen? How did the scar tissue migrate from my breast to my armpit? Ah, the wonders of the human body.

This scar tissue is causing pain when I use my arm which wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to use it. But, when you have a working arm, it’s hard not to use it. So, I may I need physical therapy.  What will a physical therapist do to my armpit? Does anyone know?

So, what are you in PT for? Oh, recovering from knee surgery? Cool. What am I in here for? Me? Well, scar tissue in my armpit. Yep.

I started having sharp pains in my right breast a couple of weeks ago, but they have since subsided. I think my right breast was having sympathy pains (and, she may be a little jealous of the attention-stealing left breast). But, no worries. She’s just a drama queen.

Let’s pour a glass of wine and say a toast.

Here’s to the end! [sip]

Cheers! [gulp]