Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Radiation Day 12

It's Tuesday. That's doctor day.  Still haven't seen my actual radiologist since I started the radiation treatments. Maybe next week.  What makes Tuesdays so bad is I have to weigh in - not fun. And today I was up by 3 lbs.  Before someone yells at me about being silly about fretting over a mere three pounds - keep in mind I have a weight problem.  I have spent many years over weight - very over weight. And that is one of the things that can contribute to cancer.  It's only been in the last 18 months that I got rid of the excess weight.  Being skinny and relatively healthy (except for the cancer) is still new to me.  So when I go up, of course I worry.  Usually two pounds doesn't bother me, but three or more and I began to fret.

And I'm a stress eater. I've been trying very hard not to give into that temptation. I try to keep healthy snacks on hand for when I can't fight the temptation.  But lets face it. There are just some foods I can't keep in the house. It's rather frustrating to have gained weight after last week, when I finally managed to get in some decent exercise.

The rational side of me knows that the few pounds this morning were most likely a combination of water (I had just had finished drinking roughly twenty ounces of water - not only is drinking lots of water good for you in general, but with the radiation, it's important to get at least 64 ounces a day) and the big sweater (yes it's spring, but we woke up to snow on the ground here in Colorado this morning) I was wearing.  Though weight gain can be a side effect of the tamoxifen, I can avoid it - if I spend more time concentrating on being healthy and less time whining.  So it's nothing to panic about - yet. However, I don't want to fall in the trap of making excuses either. It's a fine line to walk between cutting myself a little slack and keeping myself on track.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Radiation Day 11

It's been a long day. Normally, after radiation, I run home and have another cup of coffee or two before heading to school.  This morning I headed to school early for a staff meeting.  A student at school was killed in a car wreck over spring break.  This was the first day back to school after break and staff were meeting to plan how to help each other and students work through this very tough time.

There were no classes in the library today and for that I was glad.  As a military wife, I've had crisis and care team training and (unfortunately, during the last deployment I had opportunities to put that training to use), but since I've started radiation, I noticed my emotions seem to be very on the edge. It doesn't take much to bring out the tears. And I was worried about being strong for the students.  With no classes in the library that was not a problem and I was able to fall back on another strength - finding resources for helping children deal with grief.  The collection at school did not have any books on this topic (we're a relatively new school and still developing the collection), but other schools in the district were quick to loan what they have. That's just one more reason I've love my school district.

Even though I didn't have much interaction with students today, I did talk briefly with one third grader who over the break, shaved her head and donated the hair to Locks of Love.  I'm hoping I can interview her and maybe if she's willing and her parents ok it, post her picture on this blog.

It's going to be a long week, but one that serves as a reminder that we should never take things for granted.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And Training For The Walk Begins

This is one wall of the Penrose Cancer Center. Even though this is an add for Colorado Spine Care, I was feel as though this lady is trying to tell me something - don't give up - keep climbing.

 This past week was Spring Break - a good time to get back into walking and to start training for the Avon Rocky Mountain Walk in June.

I managed to get in 14.03 miles this week. Not bad, but if I'm going to do a marathon and a half, I need to up my mileage.  It's true that walking, even just around the neighborhood adds considerably to the fatigue brought on by the radiation.  But it's a good fatigue. It's a productive one.  I know that the fatigue brought on by the radiation is also a good one - in that it's my body forcing me to rest so it can heal.  But feeling tired because I chose to be active feels so much better than just being tired from the treatments - I guess because it's my choice. It's also good for me. I also feel it will eventually help me get my energy back.

This week, on Monday,  I hiked around Ute Valley Park with a good friend and clocked 4.36 miles. On Wednesday, I hiked around Fox Run Park by myself. Even though my horrible sense of direction got me lost, I still managed to clock 2.6 miles before finding my car.  Today, Tony and hiked around the Air Force Academy. We started out on one trail and switched to another one. Even though I ended up falling on my butt, I think I may have found a trail that will help me train for going up Pike's Peak. But first I must get a good pair of hiking shoes.

This is the trail that I managed to walk up even though I managed to fall halfway up and wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it the rest of the way up.  Fortunately, Tony was able to help me to the top.  There's a reason one shouldn't go hiking alone.
This is me after we made it up the hill and down the other side.

I'm tired, but I feel good and I'm hoping I'll sleep like a calm baby tonight!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Radiation Day 10

I've now completed two weeks of radiation and so far no sunburn. Trust me I'm not complaining. I'm hoping I'll be a rare fortunate case. But, fair skinned people with freckles don't usually get that lucky.

Today there was a new person (at least new to me) working with the ladies that do my radiation treatments.  This was a young man. I can't remember his name. I had gotten used to it just being ladies - it's a little easier to flash them than it is to flash the guys.  This increases the number of men that I have knowingly exposed my breasts to since October to 11.  The radiation department has three doctors that rotate rounds on Tuesdays, so there's always a chance I could make it an even dozen.

The radiation team at Penrose (as is all the medical people I've dealt with there) are such a nice group.  My appointments are at 7:00 a.m.  So you know there day must start very early.  Yet, they are always cheerful, friendly and very pleasant. It really makes this all much easier.

 To show my appreciation I baked them a batch of Red Velvet Cake Balls.  I'd like do something else once the radiation treatments are over, so let me know if you have any ideas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Radiation Day Nine (and a list)

 I don't know if it's the drop in temperature or what, but the cold chills are back. Someone told me they are reverse hot flashes. Annoying is what they are.  Still, considering all the horrible side effects I could be having, I'll take the hot flashes and weird chills.

In addition to reading lots of books (I read 290 in 2010) I also read quite a few blogs. One of the bloggers I follow regularly was talking earlier this week about having received a medical wake up call and was therefore making several significant changes in their life, particularly in regards to their health.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is definitely a wake up call. It has made me appreciate my blessings and even though I know I'm winning this battle, it's also made me appreciate how short life really is.  Too often we put things off for someday. If we put them off too long, someday never arrives. My beloved Granny made this mistake.

So I've been thinking about my "list" a lot lately.  I refuse to call it a Bucket List - I just don't like the sound of that.  And it's not a wish list. Wish lists are too, well wishful.  This is my Adventure To Do List.  I thought putting it in writing and sharing it would help me be more accountable about accomplishing the list.

So here goes:

1. Give in to my wild side:
  •  Learn to ride a motorcycle.
  • Get a tattoo (a tiny little book on my ankle - this could also count as conquering a fear)
  • Learn to shoot (and actually hit the target.)
2. Be more active

  • Hike up Pike's Peak (already planned for August of this year)
  • Participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, NM
  • Learn ballroom dancing
  • Learn a martial art  - (can't you just picture me as a leather wearing, pistol shooting, ninja biker librarian?)
3.  Become more involved in the fight against breast cancer

  • Participate in fundraising (Avon and Susan G. Komen walks)
  • Join a support group (to help myself and to help others)
  • Find a way to help other Army wives battling breast cancer (there are more than we realize)
4. Follow my dreams

  • Take a trip to Ireland/Scotland/England
  • Attend the National Book Festival
  • Become a published writer and/or photographer
  • Earn  National Board Certification as a librarian
  • Become the Nancy Pearl of School Librarians
  • Learn to paint with oils and re-learn to paint with water colors
  • Learn pottery
I know it's a long list. But it's doable. I should probably think about setting some time lines. But now at least I know what I want to do. (Of course, I do reserve the right to tweak the list a little.)

So, what's on your Adventure To Do List?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radiation Day Eight

A week and a half of radiation and except for some fatigue I'm doing ok.  Thte strange chills I was experiencing  last week have made no appearance this week.  Still getting the hot flashes, but I suspect I will have them for the full time I'm on the tamoxifen.

It's Spring Break for my school district. Originally, I had a long to do list that I had planned to work my way through. However, I decided to be good to myself and only work on those things I really want to work on. So, I've done a lot of reading, a little photography, a little walking and some catching up on TV shows I've been too tired to watch when they first aired.

One of those shows is Army Wives. I had missed the last episode from Season 4, back in August. But thanks to DVR I was able to watch it yesterday.  During that episode they shared some information on Cindy's Hope Chest.

Cindy's Hope Chest is an organization created by Cindy Summers, an Army Wife diagnosed with breast cancer.  Their mission is to support women battling breast cancer emotionally and financially.  They  provide  education, support, and encouragement for  women while undergoing treatments. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Radiation Day 7

Seven radiation treatments and I'm actually feeling pretty good. I'll admit I'm a little tired. Yesterday, I celebrated spring by hiking 4.36 miles around Ute Valley Park.  I usually walk by myself - it's often hard to find someone with the same schedule as mine. But yesterday, I was fortunate enough to hike with a fellow educator. I had a great time and I confirmed my belief that more exercise will go along way to helping me feel better. I'm not sure I can ever get rid of the fatigue. I'm not a restful sleeper, but walking is very therapeutic for me.

Walking allows me to plan lessons, write book reviews in my head and sort out problems in peace. I've even been known to have an epiphany or two.  In fact walking around the neighborhood this past Sunday I had just such an epiphany.

Let me back up a little bit though.  When the mammogram techs were placing the wire that would guide the surgeon during the first lumpectomy, one of them commented that the doctor was very concerned about getting the incision for the guide wire as close to the incision for two biopsies.  Apparently, he was concerned about the cosmetic impact of the scar.  At the time, I was very uncomfortable, a little nauseous and just wanted the whole thing over and done with. I responded, that I didn't care about the cosmetics  - I'm a librarian, not a swimsuit model.  Immediately following the first surgery, I though the scar looked pretty good. Then they had to go back in and they used the same incision.  After that I sort of avoided looking at the scar.

However, since starting radiation, I've made it a practice to check  it on a daily basis. I have to check for any skin changes due to the radiation. I told Tony that I thought that since the second surgery and the radiation, the scar doesn't look quite so good.  I might have used the words "hideous" and "rather scary".

I'm not sure what I'm worried about. It's not like anyone will ever see it. Even when I wear a bathing suit, you can't see it. (I tend to go for rather modest suits.)  Still it's not a pretty sight.  At least that's what I was thinking until I sorted things out on my Sunday walk around the neighborhood.

My scar isn't ugly. In fact it's beautiful. That scar is just one more sign that I am a survivor. And a lucky one at that. I got to keep my breast, when some women don't. That scar is a sign that the cancer has been removed and that I'm winning the battle.  I won't be showing it off - but it doesn't bother me anymore.

 Nothing like a good walk to get your head on straight and see things with a better perspective.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Radiation Day 6

Today was a little scary.  Before they blast me they always ask me to take in a deep breath and hold it.  This is necessary because the radiation is directed at my left breast - over my heart. They don't want the radiation to harm my heart. Taking in deep breath and holding it causes the heart to move back from the chest wall.  This morning there must of have been something wrong with their mike because I didn't hear them tell me to take a deep breath.  I just happened to take in a breath right before the laser came on.  When I saw the light and heard the buzz, I didn't breathe out. Taking that breath at just the right time was God looking out for my heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Strange Saturday

No radiation today. Only on weekdays. But it has been a strange day. Started off about normal.  As usual I was awake several times during the night and finally gave up and got up around 4:30 a.m.  I settled on the couch with a cup of coffee and one of my current reads.  Then Patrick and I met friends for breakfast. Tony had to go into work.

That's when normal ended. Patrick and I were running errands, one of which was a stop by the mall. I received a gift card in the mail for filling out a health assessment with my school's health insurance provider. Even though I don't take their insurance, they offered the gift card to any employee who completed the assessment.

My Payless version of Shape Ups are worn out and if I'm going to get back into my walking routine, I needed a new pair of shoes.  Skechers  has a pair supporting Breast Cancer Awareness. They've been on my wish list since the first of the year. But they are rather expensive. I have a hard time paying a lot of money for shoes.  But, I found a local shoe store that had them on sale - significantly. And my gift card covered most of the cost.

After purchasing the shoes I went in search of Patrick who was window shopping in one of the game stores.  On my way I decided to stop off at clothing store I particularly like. They were having a 40% off of everything sale - still shopping for things other than shoes was not in my budget.  But I went in anyway. I'm really into pink these days. And they had several lovely pink items, including a pair of pink capri pants. Unfortunately, their smallest size is too big for me - that's why I like this store - I can buy really small sizes.  So instead I bought a beautiful green top and a purple wrap.  Then I headed off to find Patrick.

Patrick wanted to know if I could advance him some money on his allowance - or give him a loan that he would then work off. I told him no. He'd already received an advance.  He didn't give me any grief, but the look on his face was very sad and the next thing I know I was in tears. Let me be very clear, Patrick didn't give me any back talk or try to argue with me.  I don't know why I was in tears, but for some reason I was so upset, I almost went back to the clothing store to return my purchases.  Patrick was a little unnerved, to say the least.  And I'm sure he was really freaking out as I continued to cry all the way out to the car and on the drive to the next stop on our list of errands.

Recently, someone mentioned in passing that they either knew someone or had a relative who had gone through radiation and found themselves a little fuzzy headed. (That's me on a good day without radiation.) But in my research I've not found that to be one of the symptoms.  Random crying is not a symptom I've found either.  Poor Patrick.  He was doing his best to try to make me feel better. I think he would have promised me the moon to get me to stop crying.  And I did stop, just as abruptly as I started.  We finished our errands. I came home and proceeded to bake a Bailey's Bundt Cake, A Green Velvet Cake and a Shamrock Silk Pie. (We're celebrating St. Patrick's Day a few days later with a group of wonderful friends tonight.)  I will be the designated driver. If shopping reduces me to tears, who knows what a cup of Irish Coffee would do to me.

I may not know what brought on the tears, but I do know that I'm truly blessed with the men in my life - Tony and Patrick have done a wonderful job supporting and taking care of me over the last several months.  Patrick handled my tears with more maturity and calm than you might expect of a 13 year old. I know it hasn't been a piece of cake for him or his father.  Breast cancer is not just hard on the woman it attacks, it's hard on the men in her life, too.  And that brings me to my last topic for today.  I selected for my next breast cancer read a book titled Stand By Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men by John Anderson.

I chose this book for two reasons.  One, I want this blog to be helpful for not only other women diagnosed with breast cancer, but I want it to be helpful for their loved ones as well.  The second reason is I thought it might give me some insight into how my fighting cancer impacts the men in my life: my husband, my sons, my wonderful Dad by choice, (my biological dad passed away a few months before my diagnoses) and my male friends.

I'm not very far into the book, but so far I'm finding it to be an excellent read. I plan to ask Tony to read it and let me know if his opinion.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be somewhat more normal (whatever that is). I'm off to find a little Irish Cheer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

B.O.O.B.S - A Book Review

Check out my book blog (Booklady's Booknotes) for  a review of this book.

Radiation Day 5

I am not dying of cancer. I am living with cancer ---- Unknown.

That was the quote at the beginning of the chapter I was reading in B.O.O.B.S. this morning.

My undergrad degree is in English/Art.  Just as much as I enjoy playing with photos, I enjoy playing with words/quotes.  Here's my version of that quote.  Feel free to quote me.

I am not dying of cancer. I am not living with cancer.  I am kicking cancer's butt! -- Beverly Archer

So even though I woke up cranky this morning, I am obviously in a better mood than last night.  I guess I don't handle fatigue too well.  A little bit of sleep, hearing from my wonderful Zeta sisters and a good friend from North Carolina and my perspective is back where I want it to be.

Today was Vampire Day!

That's right. I had to give blood. I won't know until Tuesday when I see the doctor if this will be a weekly thing. If it is, I hope that the young woman who took my blood this morning is always on duty. She was very good. Maybe I should see what her schedule is and only show up when she's there.

They also took an x-ray. I said this team was very thorough about monitoring everything. I am blessed to be in such good hands.  In the reading I've been doing, I've read some horrible stories where the medical team was not as thorough.   Kicking cancer's butt is going to take all my energy.  It's good to know that I don't have to question the expertise of those who are fighting this with me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radiation Day Four

As the old saying goes "I feel knee high to a grasshopper."

It's not just because I'm tired. Or because of the strange chills I've been getting or even the fact that I feel like some one put a heating pad in my bra. No. I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm ashamed of myself for not being super woman.

I recently found out that an acquaintance has breast cancer. She hasn't told anyone. She only told me because she thought we might run into each other at the Cancer Center.  This woman is quite a bit older than I am, yet when she had her surgery she returned to work the following day. She is quite proud of the fact that she "recovers quickly." She spent a good bit of time going on about how she so's resilient that no one even knows she had surgery. She didn't even take any time off from work. She says that's just how she is. She doesn't know what all the fuss is about. She says she's already beat the cancer (she hasn't started her radiation treatments yet) and she doesn't need counseling.

I spent most of last night mentally kicking myself for beingn such wimp and a whiny one at that. If I had any doubt I'm a big baby, well after talking to her, now I know I for sure that I am.

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about what I'm going through. Does that make me whiny? It's not my intent to be whiny. I drone on and on about all that I'm going through because I thought that if I could talk about what I'm feeling (the good, the bad, the whiny - all of it) it might help others. A doctor can tell you about the challenges you'll be facing, but somehow it doesn't seem quite real unless you hear it from someone who has actually experienced it. That's why I've been reading so many stories about breast cancer survivors.

I wanted to find out way to do something for others (and I'll be honest, airing my fears and concerns - and my successes and blessings on this blog is helpful for me.)  Tonight, I just don't know. I know I'm rambling. It's been a long week. The radiation has zapped my energy more than I ever expected.

On Monday, I thought I was doing well, all things considered. But now I'm not so sure. I guess I'm just having one of those days. Maybe I'll be more rational tommorrow.

What do you think? Should people with an illness/disease keep it to themselves? Carry on as though it doesn't exist. Should we all be Wonder Woman or should we just concentrate on being human?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Radiation Day 3

Fortunately, today's appointment was another quick one and I could run home for another cup of coffee and post my blog before school.  (Today is going to be a long day - the Book Fair will run to 7:00 p.m. and based on the last two days, my energy will run out about 5:00 - just when I expect business to pick up - so I know that nothing will get blogged once I get home.)

I found this list on a literary blog this morning before I headed out to Penrose.  I thought it was good enough to share. And I've added the author's book to my to read list. Actually it was already on my to read list, but I think I might move it higher up the list.

Found at Chick Lit is Not Dead.  Ellen Meister is the author of  The Other Life.

CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS: ELLEN MEISTER’S 5 DO’S AND A DO-OVER (I'm not posting the Do-Over. Though later I might post my own Do-Over. We all have them and sometimes, it might be good to air them out a little. But that's a post for another day.)
1. Listen to your mother, no matter how old you are. She’s always right.
2. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink … to get up and dance … or make love … or take a phone call from a friend. The dishes will still be there when you’re done.
3. Say yes to the things that scare you. You will never regret facing your fears.
4.  Spend more time with the people you enjoy and less time with the people you don’t. Life’s too short.
5. Say “I love you” the moment you think it.
1. Those of you who know me know that I have never really followed this one - at least in regards to the woman who gave birth to me.  There are very good reasons for that - but I do listen to my surrogate mothers (my Granny, my Mom by Choice - Sue, and my mother-in-law - Patty. Sure miss her this morning.)
2.  Never had a problem with leaving the dishes to later, but I need to remember this in regards to when I need to be away from the library. As my principal often says - the library isn't going anywhere. The books will still be there when I feel better.
3.  I'm working on this one.  (No Tony, this doesn't mean I'm getting a tattoo - yet.)  Within the last year I have embraced motorcycle riding. And who knows, maybe someday I'll learn to ride on my own.
4.  I try to do this one as much as possible.
5.  This is one I truly believe in - tell the people who are important to you that they are - even if they already know that - it's nice to hear it voiced.
I hope you all have a wonderful day.  What's on your "DO" list?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Radiation Day Two

Curled up on the couch and snoozing just like this puppy - that was me last night. The only reason it's not me tonight is due to sheer stubbornness. I didn't think the radiation would make me so tired, at least not this soon. And I'm still not convinced that's what did it.  Yesterday I blamed it on the time change.  Today's fatigue could also be related to that.

Last night I was so tired, I never made it off the couch until the coffee pot turned on this morning.

After just two days of radiation, I shouldn't be having any side effects -right?  But the fatigue is not the only strange thing I'm feeling.  In addition to being just flat out exhausted by 5:00 p.m. the last two days, I now find myself freezing several times during the day. I mentioned that I'm cold natured.  Spring in Colorado can be chilling. But this is a strange chilliness. I feel cold from the inside out - if that makes sense. I'm not really sure how to explain it - except that when I get these chilly spells, I find myself wishing for a hot flash.  

Still, I wouldn't classify the fatigue as severe. That's one of the questions they asked me this morning - is the fatigue sever or mild?  Every week on Tuesday, after my radiation treatment (by the way I counted this morning - each blast takes between 17 - 20 seconds) I will get weighed, interviewed by a nurse and seen briefly by the doctor.  It's comforting knowing they will be monitoring me so closely.

One thing that is not comforting is that I have to get poked yet again.  They want to do a blood test this week so they can monitor my white blood count - again monitoring my white blood count was something I only associated with chemo. So this comes as another surprise. I didn't think to ask if this means they will be taking my blood every week.  (I swear sometimes I think doctors/nurses are really vampires in disguise.  A vampire bite might be less painful. After all, don't they have some natural pain killer enzyme that oozes out with the bite?)

On the bright side, Spring Break starts on Friday. And even though I won't be able to sleep in due to the early morning radiation treatments, I can at least take a nap.

Monday, March 14, 2011

That Was Quick

Today was my first radiation treatment.  Over the weekend I jokingly posted that it takes longer to get undressed than it does for the treatment.  Turns out it's not a joke.

My treatment is a Penrose Cancer Center - a wonderful place.  It's a civilian hospital of course. After years of dealing with military health providers, I'm well trained in showing up 15 minutes early (with a book of course, because with military appointments, you show up 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment and you are lucky if you see the doctor  30 minutes after your scheduled time.

Another person was scheduled ahead of me, but since she wasn't there, they went ahead and took me.  My appointment was 7:00 a.m. I was done by 7:03.

Because of my position at school - I'm a licensed librarian, working as a classified librarian - hourly and not allowed to go in early - I found myself back at home with a good half hour to kill.  That was unexpected.  I could have gone over to the pharmacy to buy the special cream they want me to use to help with skin irritation.  However the pharmacy doesn't open until 9:00 a.m.  Thankfully, they are open until 5:30, so I'll have time to run back by there after school.

So, how am I feeling after this first treatment?  Hyper aware. I know that any side effects would not show up 30 minutes after the treatment, but I feel as though I'm on alert for any twitch or hiccup.  I'm sure that will subside as I get into the routine.

Now, it's time for another cup of coffee and then off to school for the challenge of learning how to run a cash register for the book fair and hope the hot flashes don't cause me to sweat too much.  Turns out that I can't use deodorant under my left arm for the entire  6 1/2 weeks. Gross!  That will be another interesting side effect. Since taking the tamoxifen, I've noticed that the smell of my deodorant - one I've used for a long time - what is supposed to be a nice fresh powder scent - sometimes makes me nauseous.   With one side smelling sickly powder fresh and the other side like a Texas football player who just finished two-a-days no one is going to want to stand too close to me until May.  At least I'm doing this during March in Colorado and not July in Texas.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Ramblings

Last week, I decided to try some adjustments to see if I could get a better handle on the side effects from the tamoxifen.  I reduced my intake of caffeine and took the tamoxifen at night instead of in the mornings.

The only change I've noticed is that nausea seems to have passed, but I can't tell if that's because of taking the tamoxifen at night or because my body is getting more used to the medicine.  I do know that for some reason taking the tamoxifen at night seems to make sleep even more difficult than usual.  So I've switched back to taking it in the morning. It's easier for me to remember to take it in the mornings when I take the vitamins I'm still allowed to take.  When I was taking it at night I had to set an alarm on my phone to remember to take it, which only worked if I remembered to set the alarm in the first place.

As for reducing my caffeine intake reducing hot flashes - it didn't make a difference at all. In fact I think the hot flashes at night were worse. So I'm back to drinking regular coffee.  I'm very glad that Spring is almost here.  I know that warmer weather might make the hot flashes more uncomfortable, but at least I won't be burning up one minute and freezing the next.  I swear if I caught the flu right now, I'd never know it - I'd probably just blame my symptoms on the tamoxifen.

Tomorrow is the first day of radiation. Should be an interesting morning.

I picked up from the library Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book - Fully Updated and Revised 5th Edition by Susan M. Love, MD.  It's a door stop! It's almost as thick as my Norton's Literature Anthology from my college days.

The front cover has a blurb from the New York Times calling it "The bible for women with breast cancer."

It's 635 pages not counting the Appendixes.  I'll never get it read before it's due back at the library.  Maybe I better see if I can get a copy from Amazon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dry Run

This was me yesterday, going through my "dry run" for radiation therapy which will begin on Monday bright and early at 7:00 a.m. (Well, actually I didn't have as much covering me as this woman does, but you get the general idea.)

Recently I posted about having exposed myself to at least 10 different men (all in the medical profession) since that fateful mammogram in October.  Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my radiation tech team is a trio of very nice ladies. (Sorry guys, you were all wonderful, but I'm just more comfortable with women.)

The above picture is similar to my position for the radiation. Actually, both arms are above my head.  The radiation itself takes less than five minutes. It takes longer to set up - it takes longer to get undressed than it does for the actual radiation.  The room is rather cold.  Yesterday, I was so cold I found myself wishing for a hot flash just so I could warm up.

My radiation will be from Monday through Friday for six and a half weeks. Every Tuesday I will meet with my radiation oncologist, just to make sure all is going well.   I may or may not be able to wear deodorant under my left arm - certainly not during the five minute radiation.  I may or may not end up with a discolored breast, swelling, something like a sunburn (at least I don't think I'll get more freckles), fatigue, loss of appetite and a very minimal chance of lymphedema. (I didn't have any lymph nodes removed, so the chance of lymphedema is very remote.)  I will need to avoid hot tubs during the treatment. (Easy to do since the movers broke our hot tub to the point that it can't be fixed.) And I'll need to use a mild soap and a special cream that I can only purchase at the Penrose pharmacy.  

It is also recommended that I increase my intake of protein. There is some concern I might actually lose weight.  I found this surprising, as weight loss was not something I associated with radiation. I don't think that will be a problem. I think "not gaining weight" will be the challenge. My appetite is likely to increase as my body tries to heal during the radiation - but the weather is getting warmer so I should be able to go back to training for my Avon and Susan G. Komen Walks and my hike up Pikes Peak in August.

After having such a good day on Thursday, yesterday was a little set back as I found myself tired again - I had wanted to walk after school, but since I'd done the Wii that morning and I was so tired, I skipped it.  We're having a book fair at school - the first one where I'm the person in charge. I spent most of yesterday afternoon getting it set up - thank goodness my fellow teachers helped me get it finished before the day ended.

For the most part the week ended on a good note (a few worries I wish I didn't have, but that's life.) I think I'm actually mentally and physically prepared for the radiation treatment.  I'm human though - so don't be surprised to find me whining about how the early morning treatments cut into my morning routine.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Dance

I've been doing a lot of whining lately about not being able to walk. The weather has been too cold.  With my immune system not up to par because of the tamoxifen and not being able to take some of vitamins due to the upcoming radiation, I've not wanted to risk catching a cold by going on my morning walks in freezing weather. And by the time I get home after school, I'm just so tired I'm not good for much other than sitting on the couch with a book.

I finally decided to stop whining and do something about it. (I was recently reading a young adult novel, that irritated me beyond belief because the main character kept whining but never made an effort to make things better. - Librarian listen to thyself!).  

So this morning, I moved away from the computer (gasp) and slipped the Just Dance2 game into the Wii. I managed to get almost a half hour of exercise in before the dog wanted out and the children had to be drug out of bed for school.

I don't know if you can dance away cancer, but you can at least dance away the blues that can come with the cancer - at least for a little while.  This morning, I feel better mentally than I have in weeks, maybe months.

I have to credit my oldest son with this sudden inspiration to dance the morning and the blues away.  Last night we let him have control of the TV for a little while.  His viewing choice was Glee.

Egads! I'm now a Gleek!

Last night's episode featured Gwyneth Paltro doing Joan Jett's (Gary Glitter's) Do You Wanna Touch Me.  I found myself doing my Walter Mitty thing again. (Don't know who Walter Mitty is? Click here.)  I'm not as skinny nor as tall as Gwyneth Paltro. And if I wore those heels I'd either get a nose bleed or trip over myself - probably both. But I can dream.

Cancer doesn't just invade your body. Even an "innocent" cancer like mine can invade your mood and your self esteem.  I've been so concentrated on taking care of myself physically, it never occurred to me that I needed to take care of my attitude as well.  Thanks Ryan for the boost.

Note to self - spend less time whining about things - spend more time laughing and dancing.

As for comparing myself to Holly Holiday - maybe not a realistic comparison. But with a little work, I can be that leather wearing, motorcycle riding, hot dancing and soon to be cancer-free librarian.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Wish I'd Known That - Tip #1

I've decided to start a list of tips I wish I'd known. Often whenever we say "I wish I'd known that" the time for the tip to help has passed. But maybe if I compile a list of things I wish I'd known they will be helpful to someone else.

Last night I finished reading another story from B.O.O.B.S.  I really felt for this woman. Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer within just days of her 50th birthday. What a birthday present! She also had several other chronic health issues that created challenges for her treatment. It made me realize yet again, just how lucky I am.

One thing I learned from reading her story that I wish I had known before -  had to do with finding a comfortable position to sleep in after my two lumpectomies.  I generally sleep on my side - my left side - THE SIDE. So after the surgeries getting in a comfortable position for sleep was a challenge.  I was too sore to sleep on my left side and sleeping on my right side felt odd.  Now that I've healed, it's not an issue for me, but Robin's tip can be helpful to someone else.

She discovered that holding a pillow between her breasts and lying on her "good side" made her more comfortable. She discovered this trick in Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.  You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Or you can check back later for my review.

What do you wish you had known?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Making Adjustments

I previously talked about decreasing my caffeine intake to see if that would help decrease the hot flashes, dizziness and bouts of nausea I've been experiencing with the tamoxifen.  We've switched to decaf coffee at home. (Though I'm still drinking tea with caffeine.)  We'll see how that goes.  I'm also now taking the tamoxifen at night to see if it cuts down on the nausea during the day. So far, it just makes sleeping even more difficult than it normally is.

I'm also going to have to adjust my vitamin intake until after the radiation is done.  Some vitamins, especially antioxidants fight against free radicals.  Free radicals in the environment can damage all cells, but in the case of radiation they are focused on cancer cells. Antioxidants help keep free radicals from forming or if they do form, neutralize them.  (Breastcancer.org)

The vitamins to avoid: A, C, D, E and COQ10.  I normally take COQ10 and D3. I started these vitamins after I started going to the Metabolic Research Center to loose weight. Prior to taking these vitamins, if someone down the hall sneezed, I caught a cold.  After I started losing weight, getting more fit and taking these vitamins, my immune system (at least in regards to colds and flu) increased greatly.  One of the side effects of tamoxifen (yes it seems I learn of more each day) is an increased  risk of infection. People taking tamoxifen are cautioned to stay away from people with colds, etc.

I work in an elementary school - otherwise known as a germ factory.  And since Murphy runs my life, I'm sure that now that I won't be taking my immune boosting vitamins, I'll be sneezed on my by at least five children a day.

This will also impact my walking. I've been trying to work my way back into walking and exercise.  My goal is to get back up to walking at least once a day five times a week. (As it gets warmer, I want to walk twice a day).  With an increased risk of infection, that means no more walking when it's freezing outside.  Before the first surgery in January, I would get up at 5:00 a.m., put on three layers of clothing plus my coat, gloves and knit cap and take a quick walk around the neighborhood.  Now, when the alarm goes off, I check the temperature and if it's freezing or below, I skip the walk. I don't want to "catch" a cold.  Of course all of this (except for the tamoxifen) is temporary.  Once the radiation treatments have been completed, I can go back to taking all my vitamins. By that time, the weather will be warmer  - perfect for walking in the mornings before school.

I know I'm being sort of whiny about all this, but I wanted to talk about it today because these are things that I had not considered that I might need to change. Some of the information came from my doctor (not being able to take Vitamin E and COQ10), but other things  - tamoxifen lowering my resistance to infection and not being able to take Vitamin D during radiation, I found out by googling.   At every doctor's visit they always ask if I have any questions. I don't know if it's because by the time the doctor's visit rolls around I'm on information overload or what, but most of the time I can't think of any questions.   I always think of them later.    Fortunately, I do have Sharon, my BCN to help answer questions in between visits.

Hopefully, my droning on and on about all the changes I've been going through, will help someone else think of the questions they should be asking and/or point them in the right direction for information and support.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Today has been FRIGHTFUL FRIDAY! My regular life drama has intruded on my medical life.  Really, must I deal with drama and stress from all areas at the same time? Oh, yeah, I forgot, that's life.  I must put on my Big Girl Panties and Deal With It!

Today I had my radiation simulation appointment. It wasn't too bad. The tat's hurt. But not as much as I had anticipated. No - this does not mean I'm ready for a real tattoo.  The three I got today, maybe took a 1/2 second each, but  I'm not ready to face a needle for the length of time it would take to put a tattoo on my ankle. (Unless I can be totally knocked out first. Which of course means I have not totally ruled out a tattoo sometime in my future.)

I'm always looking for ways to deal with my needle phobia. Mostly, I just try to think of something else while getting stuck.  The room I was in  had a beautiful picture of a mountain -  I don't think it was Pike's Peak, (I'm committed to getting the perfect photo of Pike's Peak), but it was a nice picture. And I spent some time wondering how I could get a similar shot. That didn't last long. So I had to search for something else to occupy my mind.

And this is what my poor, overstressed, pathetic mind chose to occupy itself with: I found myself counting how many men I have exposed my breasts to since that fateful mammogram back in October of 2010.  They say that pregnancy cures you of your inhibitions as it does not allow room for being shy or being embarrassed about exposing yourself. Well, I can tell you a breast cancer diagnosis can do the same thing.

Since October I have exposed my breasts to 10 different men, maybe more as I do not know who saw them during surgery. I seem to remember before the diagnosis that a female nurse was always in the room for these sort of exams, but that hasn't been the case since October. I'm a very shy and modest person, so this is a strange feeling for me.  I do it because it's necessary, but when my mind actually has time to think about it, it does find it a little embarrassing.   But it's necessary. Cancer does not allow time for modesty.  At least I'm no longer worried about the cantaloupe/grapefruit scenario. Though, the radiation tech did tell me I still have a ceratoma. (I'm not sure about the spelling.)  It's a pocket of fluid, similar to a bruise - if I understand it correctly.  However, I am vain enough to worry about what gravity has done to me (that and the weight loss). And I do often panic for a moment wondering if I remembered to shave my armpits. It's America after all and not a European country.

There's nothing like a medical procedure to shatter your preconceptions.

Let's hope that after a Frightful Friday - which was the end of a week that began with a Miserable Monday, tomorrow will be a Soothing Saturday. (Forgive me. We've been celebrating Dr. Seuss this week in the library.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fundraising Update

I'm at 56% of fundraising goal for the June Rocky Mount Avon Walk. Thank you to all who have contributed.  I have 114 days to raise the require $1,800 for the Avon Walk and I will also be walking in the Denver and Colorado Springs Susan G. Komen walks.

Isn't this a fantastic shirt? The ribbon is taken from the picture that my youngest son, Patrick painted for me.  The wonderful people at Shirts Plus took his artwork and a quote I selected and created this wonderful design.

I am taking orders to help raise funds the three walks. My husband, Tony, is working on the Crew for the Avon Walk. Patrick wanted to be part of the youth crew, but due to a limited number of slots was not selected. He's too young to participate in the walk, but he's committed to helping me fundraise and train for the walks. What a Battle Buddy!

Here's information for ordering shirts
Short Sleeve Shirts - $12.50 each (if you are in the Colorado Springs area).  Sizes are available in  Youth Medium, Youth Large, Adult Small, Adult Medium, Adult Large, and Adult Extra Large.  If you would like a ladies shirt, please add $1.  An XXL is an additional $1 and an XXXL is an additional $2.  Long sleeve shirts are available for $17.  $5 from each shirt goes to three walks in which I am participating.  The shirts are 100% cotton and pre-shrunk.

If you don't live in the Colorado Springs area but would like a shirt send me your zip code and I'll figure out shipping. I'd love to cover the cost of shipping, but my salary as a librarian just won't cover it.

If you'd like to donate but do not want a shirt you can do so online here at My Avon Walk Personal Page.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Poke, Poke, Poke!

I met with the radiologist yesterday to hopefully, finally get the schedule set for my radiation treatments.  Before we can set the schedule, I have to have a radiation simulation. That's where they get me "fitted" for the radiation and I get three little tattoos - three little dots to mark the spot. That way they will be sure each time they blast me with radiation, they are blasting the right spot.   Poke! Poke! Poke!

I'm sure my phobia of needles is silly to some people.  I admit a 46 year old woman terrified (and yes terrified is the right word) of needles does seem ridiculous.  But I can't help it. It doesn't matter how tiny the needle is, I still break out in a cold sweat when I see one. Oh great, cold sweats and a hot flash at the same time - that will be interesting.

I've been terrified of needles for as long as I can remember. My mother used to tell the story that my problem with needles came from the fact that the doctor who delivered me, gave me too many shots as a baby. According to mom, who was 16 when I was born, the doctor's nurse pulled her aside after one visit and recommended she find another doctor for me, as there was no need for me to get a shot every time I visited the doctor. The nurse said he was treating me like a pin cushion.

My mom often told this story, but she wasn't very sympathetic to my fears. I stopped crying when I got shots after she spanked me and grounded me for doing so at one visit. I was probably only 6 or 7 at the time.  The tears may have stopped but the fear and panic continue on to this day.  It's a miracle I ever managed to get my ears pierced. (Another joyful experience with my mom.)  It's the main reason I have never gotten a tattoo. My dear sweet husband would love for me to get a tattoo - he even joked on Facebook that I would be getting inked on Friday.  Oh, I think of getting a tiny tattoo on my ankle from time to time.  I even have one picked out.
I just don't see it happening.  I'm a wimp. I fret for days before a procedure involving needles.  I can usually "man up" enough to get through blood tests and IVs, but while everyone else is laughing, because they either can't believe I'm actually that freaked out about it or because I've been cracking jokes as a lame attempt to get through the whole ordeal - I'm doing mental lamaze breathing and doing everything I can to either not burst into tears or to run screaming from the room.  I'm not worried about my mother grounding me anymore, but I really would hate to embarrass anyone trying to help me.

So, if my math is right. I've got four more pokes coming - three for the radiation and one for the genetic blood test.   Maybe if I put on my Super Librarian suit, I can get through it without it being too mortifying.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Still Searching for Normal

On Sunday I was going to post about how good I felt because I thought I could just see normal around the corner.  I went for a morning walk. I have four routes around my neighborhood that I generally follow. There's the quick walk around the neighborhood that takes me past my son's middle school.  There's the slighter longer walk that I think of as a big rectangle.  There's the walk to the library - longer than the other two and has the advantage of an uphill walk on the way back that really gives my legs a work out.  And there's the LONG walk that I only do on weekends when the weather is nice. I've not clocked it yet, but I think it's at least a couple of miles and it takes me well over an hour to complete.

As I've been getting back into my walking routine I've been sticking to the quick walk, the one by the school.  I never seem to know when the dizzy spells will hit and I didn't want to get sick while walking. On Sunday, I decided to go for the slightly longer walk. I figured that if I did get sick, I could always stop and sit down if needed.  So off I went. I clocked it. It's 1.67 miles and it took me just over 30 minutes.  Yea! I didn't get sick. And I felt great.  Normal's just hanging out around the corner.

Well, Murphy (yeah that dang Murphy hang's out at my house way too much) was laughing at me.  On Sunday night we met friends for dinner, drinks and the hot tub.  Note to self: apparently tamoxifen doesn't like some drinks and doesn't think too kindly about hot tubs either.  Not only did I get sick, but I ended up hyperventilating and had the chills - that's a switch from the hot flashes. It was embarrassing and frustrating.

Yesterday, I could breath without scaring everyone, but I was exhausted, dizzy and still having random bouts of nausea.  At one point, I wanted to close my office door and crawl under my desk and just sleep.  I know, I could have gone home. The library would have still been there, but I'm trying to save my leave as I don't know how much, if any, work I'll miss due to the radiation. And my third graders are finishing up a research project. (I'm not a martyr - really - I just feel guilty when I miss work, because really - I don't think I'm ill enough to justify being out.)

This morning, I'm still feeling the after effects.  I've been nauseous since I woke up at 4 a. m.  That's a little different. Usually the nausea passes after a minute or two.

I did google the side effects of tamoxifen AGAIN.  This time I found out that it can cause weight loss - the first time I googled it, I found out it can cause weight GAIN.  Depending on which site you look at - alcohol and caffeine make the side effects worse or it can have no impact at all. And there's a whole laundry list of other side effects that I could experience. I hate reading those things. Because then I feel like my mind will play tricks on me and I'll think I have them, even if I don't. I guess I just need to keep track of what's happening to me. Everyone is different. My side effects might not be the same as someone else.  Over all, I'm still glad I'm taking tamoxifen and not going through chemo.

I guess the bottom line is that normal might just be right around the corner - but it's playing peek-a-boo with me right now. And I must remind myself once again, this is a marathon - not a speed race.

This weekend I'm going to try an experiment. I'll cut out all alcohol and caffeine for a week. I've read that for some women that can help with the hot flashes.  If it does, then I guess I'm going de-caf for the next five years. If it doesn't then I'm going back to full strength coffee.