I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where I am with treatment. What’s happening in my life? How am I feeling? So consider this my attempt to answer your questions… my deep-dark secrets will be revealed, all the things you ever wanted to know about me, those frequently asked question about who I am. My dorky life in middle and high school. My 80’s hair. The WAHM club. Well, no, not really. But if you have a question (about my health update, because I refuse to touch the 80’s) that I don’t answer, feel free to leave a comment and ask me.
So, the frequently asked questions. With my responses, of course.
1. Are you finished with treatment now?
A resounding “No!”. I am finished with the big 3–surgery, chemo and radiation–but am still facing a lot of treatment down the road. I go every three weeks for Herceptin treatments. This is IV-treatment like chemo was but with much less toxic side effects. I will have those treatments through December. Usually the day of and the day after I feel like a truck ran me down, but then I am back to my functioning self. I am also beginning oral medication that I will take for 5 years to control estrogen levels in my body and help prevent the chance of recurrence.
2. Have you been declared cancer free?
That’s a question I just asked my doctor today. I am scheduled to have an MRI on Monday, a Dexa Scan on Wednesday, and another bone scan in May. The MRI and bone scan are to see if there is anything of concern. The Dexa Scan is to get a baseline on my bone density, because one of my new meds can cause osteoporosis. They will do more scans down the road to keep an eye on whether or not cancer has returned.
The two year mark from my first surgery is a good mark. It means I’ve passed the point of highest recurrence risk. 5 years is another milestone. If I were to get breast cancer again in 7 1/2 years, it would be considered a new cancer. One doctor I read put it this way, “Once you die of something else, you know you’ve been cured of breast cancer.” I say that realistically not pessimistically. They will always be watching, scanning, waiting. Opportunities for me to throw myself in God’s hands over and over and over again. That being said my prognosis is very good, and I consider myself as someone who had cancer not someone who has cancer.
3. What is lymphedema and do you have it?
Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of fluid that can occur in my arm because of the number of lymph nodes I had removed. My body doesn’t have the flushing system it needs to fight off infections. Or if I overuse my arm it can cause swelling. I did not have lymphedema until this week; however, Monday my hand and arm started swelling. It has gotten better, but is still there. It is very painful and interferes with the use of my dominant hand. I will go see a Physical Therapist for treatment with this.
4. How are you feeling?
Tired. Bone tired. Weary. Sleeping 8-10 hours a night and then napping during the day and still feeling exhausted. Anxious. All these scans could come back and say “there’s something there” and I would have to start this all over again. It’s brought back a lot of fears. Overwhelmed. Trying to reclaim my home and get back to a new normal is hard. I struggle to wrap my mind around each day. Restless. I want to be back doing my routines, but my body won’t allow. There is a constant emotional, spiritual, mental and physical battle I am working through. And how I am doing can change in a second. This just adds to my weariness. But “I’ll fix my eyes upon the Savior, all other things I count as loss.”
5. Is you hair growing back?
Yes indeedy. I have about 1/2 inch of hair and it’s BLONDE! Ha ha ha. No. It’s just as dark as it ever was. My eyelashes are nowhere to be found yet, but my eyebrows are putting in a scattered appearance. I look every day. Obsessing over my eyes in the mirror. Oh look, a new eyebrow hair today. Hooray! These are the little pleasures I get out of life.
6. When are you coming back to… ?
My heart longs to be back doing all the things I used to do. But I am tired. I need time to rest, write, recoup, to reclaim my home. I am a different person than I was 9 months ago. My perspectives have changed. And being in ministry doesn’t necessarily mean service. I refuse to do ministry just for the sake of doing ministry. I want to be in ministry because I know it’s where I’m called and I know it is where I can serve God best. Right now, first and foremost, I can serve God best in my home and caring for my family. This transition back to our new normal life is hard. I am emotional. I am weary. I am physically unable to do much of what I used to. I am grieving a lot that’s been lost. I am looking to an unknown future. Every time my shoulder or back aches, I immediately wonder, “What if…?” We need to discern where our focus is to be before we jump back into our previous life. In fact, we’ll never jump back into our previous life. We aren’t the same people.
7. What can we do?
That has been a question B and I have struggled to answer throughout this whole process. Sure, we needed meals and people to clean the house and care for our children. But people wanted to do more. And I love that our friends wanted to serve us so much. It is encouraging. So what can you do? I have two answers. For us, you can pray. Pray for peace, protection, guidance, wisdom, and joy as we reenter a world that is much the same, but we are very different. Don’t think that just because the “big 3” are over that we don’t still need the support and encouragement. That’s been one of the hardest parts for me… I am still very isolated. In fact, more so because I’m home with my children myself more. I see less of you. I hear from less of you now. I am busier, so it’s not as easy for me to return contact as quickly as before. I no longer have the weekly support system of all my doctors and nurses and interns. It’s feeling as if I’ve been cut adrift in a sea of new normalcy, but I’m still searching for the oars in order to steer my vessel and find my rowing rhythm. I guess what it boils down to is that while I don’t have the physical energy to pursue right now, we still need you in our life.
The second answer to that question is for you. What can you do? Well, for starters, you can tell the people you love how much you love them every single day. You can eat healthy and exercise and care for your body. You can get scans and do exams and take the precautions advised by doctors to ensure your health. You can laugh a little more each day. You can let go of the need to control and lay your life in God’s hands. You can stop worrying about how you look or if you have the right clothes or shoes or hairstyle. You can find things to be grateful for that you never would have noticed before. You can stop worrying what other people think of you and just be who God created you to be. You can stop comparing or worrying or stressing and start breathing in the sweet aroma of God’s heart for you. You can stop being human doings and become human beings. You can soak in the gifts of each day that God has blessed you with. You can live. I mean really live each day. That’s what I plan to do. Won’t you join me?