I guess it’s a good thing that life gets busy and you forget have cancer. Until you get knocked upside your head with very abrupt reminders. Case in point…
Last week I went in for my radiation simulation – that’s where they pinpointed where they will focus my radiation treatment using a CT scanner and making a few permanent tattoo marks on my breasts and under my arms (ouch!!). I was on my way to my next and “final” phase of my treatment journey with radiations scheduled to start on October 4 and end on November 19 (33 treatments) – just in time to be thankful and grateful for what my mind and body has endured and accomplished over the last 9 months. Fast forward to yesterday afternoon when my radiation oncologists called me and said while she was lining the CT imaging with my PET scan she noticed that there were some areas of interest that shouldn’t be there – and she wanted me to get in for a rush mammogram and ultrasound. She said it could just be some scar tissue from surgery – or perhaps the surgery didn’t get out all the cancer pockets it should have. Ug! That’s not the call you want to get. Things were all sunflowers and sunshine after Suzanne and I took the girls to our favorite pastime, frozen yogurt, and shopping at Dasio – and then boom, get hit with this new challenge and it was hard to keep my mind from wandering – did something new grow already?? Did surgery not get out everything they should have?? It’s probably just trauma from surgery!!!….so yeah, didn’t sleep much last night. Today after my targeted therapies infusion (that I get every 3 weeks) I hopped over to the imaging center and had my mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist said they saw some fluid pockets in the area that was flagged on the CT scan, which was likely from surgery. But while they were in there they also noticed there was still some calcifications that were in the previous tumor areas and my radiation oncologist recommended we biopsy them to see what they are before we proceed with radiation.
While I am not stoked that there are still calcifications in that area, I am ok that we’re taking the time to dig into this now – I was starting to feel a little uneasy about my surgery not having “clear margins” and there’s no better time than now to regroup with my surgeon and radiation oncologist to make sure we should move forward as planned with radiation right now vs. going back in for surgery and getting that gunk out of there.
And while I am talking about shitty points of this journey, I guess I should share my colonoscopy experience. Earlier this month I went in for my colonoscopy screening. Traditionally you don’t have to start your screening colonoscopies until around 50 – but because of my CHEK2 genetic mutation I have a high chance of colon cancer (in addition to breast) – and I asked to start my screenings now to have a baseline. The prep wasn’t too bad for me, considering I’ve been through chemotherapy and the main side effect was nausea and diarrhea. The pre-op was a little challenging – the nurses were trying to start my IV in my veins but my veins weren’t interested being compliant. The poor nurse(s) went through four different veins and they kept “popping” – I guess being on steroids during chemotherapy can cause your veins to act up. So after being poked and prodded they finally went through my port. The nurses were super nice and complimented me during the experience saying I was “glowing” and was a “little ray of sunshine” – especially considering what I was going through/had been through. Truth is, I want to be that little ray of sunshine for others and for myself. Yes, going through this sucks. But why would I take that out on the nurses or anyone else? So back to the colonoscopy procedure itself, they lightly sedated me, but I was able to watch the whole procedure and saw the doctor snip out four polyps – which as he mentioned later is “quite a lot for someone my age.” The doctor said he was sending the tissue in for pathology and he would call me in a few days. Ug!! Another few days of waiting and worrying. I told my mom and she looked up what causes polyps – fast food (ok seriously I haven’t ate fast food since high school 20 years ago!!), read meat (which I gave up when I was 13), and processed meats which I indulge in very infrequently. Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, mutations in certain genes can cause cells to continue dividing even when new cells are not needed and this unregulated growth can cause polyps to form. Damn you CHEK2! Thankfully, the polyps were caught early and my pathology came back that they were benign (not cancerous) but they were the type that could develop into cancer if left there for years. And lucky me, I get to go back for another colonoscopy next year. Hey, anything to keep on top of this stuff I am down for. And on the suggestion of my integrative medicine physician, I will continue to keep purple plant foods in my diet. Yes, that’s right – compounds in purple potatoes have been proven to help kill colon cancer stem cells and limit the spread of cancer. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food” Hippocrates. I need to start that purple and beet garden asap!
Outside those “episodes” I have been feeling good – my energy is at normal levels after chemotherapy and I’ve been making good progress on my range of motion and strength following my surgery. I had a consultation with a physical therapist and Lymphedema Clinic to learn how to prevent that chronic pesky swelling (unfortunately, no more sauna for me which I am bummed about). I also started at a new crossfit gym (ASAP Fitness in Elk Grove) that incorporates a “fitness” workout option so I don’t have to overdo it on strength training until I am ready. I had a nice relaxing trip to Denver to connect with nature, my husband (and Jason Mraz) – and that clean air, good music, yummy food and nature recharged me. Many thanks to my in-laws for treating us to nice lodging and seeing a concert at Red Rocks (check that off the bucket list). My hair is starting to grow back and I tossed out my wig and I am rocking the GI Jane look. Jen even gave me my first fade! Maile is enjoying 2nd Grade and has accompanied me to a few acupuncture and infusion appointments and is thoughtful when it comes to my special diet (“let’s get mom some lemons – her doctor said she needs to eat one a day”). And Lucy is just ever loving Lucy who showers me with snuggles and love. Tyler continues to amaze me with his strength and encouragement and continuing to make me feel like a hot momma. He’s also found the benefits of acupuncture and I think my supplement regime is starting to wear off on him.
Right now, I am just sitting on my delayed flight to Salt Lake City where I am suppose to be doing a quick work trip. And thanks to getting my thoughts and feelings out on this blog I don’t think I will need that Ambien I brought just in case I couldn’t sleep tonight (I was too scared to bring my vape sleepy pen on the plane).