It's October! Do you know what that means? Hopefully the climate here in Texas will change from hotter than hot, to not so hot, cooler and possibly cold soon. It's also the month we finally get to decorate with our beloved oranges, reds, golds and yellow decorations, pumpkins, stuff we bought at Canton. We get to burn our pumpkin smelling candles and make our homes smell amazing. I have a small front porch but there's always room for decorating.
LIFE! Survival! Five years out! Yes, today October 18 is the day five years ago I was considered cancer free after I had my bilateral mastectomy. FIVE YEARS ya'll.
If you followed my blog from the beginning, you saw a lot of the ups and downs of going through breast cancer surgery and treatment. The blog is obviously still active so you can read all about it It contains how I found out I had breast cancer (read my pathology report myself), dealing with doctors, chemo, radiation, more surgeries, genetic testing which didn't happen for me at the time because there is no family history. Since then things have changed with health insurance and I will be having the testing in November. But today I want to fill you in on recently the things that I have gone through.
After chemo I developed neuropathy in my feet and lower legs. I have no feeling in my toes or balls of my feet. You may be saying, NO big deal. Yes it is! The only shoes that I can wear and be comfortable are Skechers On the Go. I have several pairs in different colors. They are not cheap but they are worth it for me. I also have the constant feeling that there are bugs crawling up my lower legs. I am always looking down thinking that something is crawling on me. There's never anything there so I swish my hand across the skin and the 'bug crawling' goes away for a while.
This year I have had both my big toe nails permanently removed. They died and were not growing anymore. Sounds gross huh? Well the dead nails were worse. The nails had never been right since chemo. I had this done in June and they are healed enough now that I can have the skin painted to look like a nail.
I have for two years now taken Zometa infusions every six months to protect my bones from any free radicals that could be floating around in my body. The infusions are about 30 minutes total which includes the saline before and after the infusion. The first treatment was worse than any chemo I think I ever took. I hurt soooooo bad. When I went back to the Oncologist and was ask about it ... I was told, "GOOD, it's working." At this point, I have 2 more treatments left. The next one is in February.
At my regular six month check up (I am on the six month rotation), I had been having trouble with the Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) aka estrogen inhibitor(s) that I have taken. The first one that I was on (generic for Arimidex) after 3 years started causing severe joint pain to the point that my quality of life was going down at a rapid pace. I hurt in every joint in my body ... and if you know me well, I've always been a mover and shaker so to speak. My moving had gotten to the point that I could hardly get up and shaking was out of the question. ha ha ha So I took a 30 day break from that particular AI and was put on the next one which was Femara. Things seemed to be going well until about 30 days in and suddenly I developed vasculitis up the backs of my legs. Each time it broke out, it got further and further up my legs. Needless to say I stopped that AI and took another 30 day break and am back on the generic for Arimidex. So far so good. When I first began the AI I was told that I would need to be on it for five years ... that's changed, it's now 10 years. Hey I'll do whatever they tell me if my body can handle it.
Also at that particular six month check up, I went into sad mode, panic mode, you named it, I had the mode. My heart was so heavy for at least three of my survivor sister friends that I could not contain survivor guilt, my emotions and yes, my fear. When I hear that a survivor sister's cancer has returned, it shakes me to my very core. The feelings of fear, anxiety, survivor's guilt are all part of this journey. Here are a feelings that most survivor's hide well ... Is it back and I just don't know it? Will it return? I mean after all in my case, there was a smidge of 0.6 cm in my sentinel node. I cried ... no I sobbed that day sitting in my exam room telling my nurse practitioner my feelings. She wheeled her stool over in front of me and held my hand and hugged me and let me cry. You see, she's a survivor too. She knows all about these feelings. I blubbered about my friends/my sisters whose cancer had returned. My heart was breaking.
That day I ask if there was anyway that they good do a scan(s) to check me out? Because I was and still do experience hip pain, she scheduled me in the next week or so for a body and bone scan. I praise God for the medical staff that He sent me to for this journey. All my scans came back clear and clean. The spot on my left lung is still there but hasn't grown. They believe it is scar tissue from where the radiation hit it on my left side. My survivor guilt creeps in and that is something that a test cannot take away. I, being a fixer, want to make it better for them but me NOT being God, can't. I turn it over to Him and let Him take care of my friends.
My goal in sharing all of this is NOT about me ... it's about all of us who are going through, have gone through or may go through (praying not) this dreadful disease. That's why I started this blog to begin with five years ago, to educate others, to let others walk the journey with me. I continue to stand by this statement .... I would be more afraid to NOT know, than to know. Get those mammos, do that self breast exam, don't be afraid. If you need me, I'm here but more importantly our Heaven Father is here.
Today I celebrate five years of cancer free living. I am blessed to have traveled this journey. Yes, I said BLESSED. I learned to stop taking things for granted, to appreciate more, to love from and to the deepest parts of my heart and soul. Don't wait for a life changing disease to do all these things ... start now. The day I found out I had cancer we were having one the hottest, driest worst summers ever. When I walked in the doctor's office that day, everything ... grass, trees, flowers had turned crispy brown. When I walked out, they were green and lush. They had not changed, I had. The old saying ... In the blink of an eye things everything can change ... is true.
SO celebrate with me. Wear your PINK and most of all ... get your check ups.
Psalm 34:4 "I prayed to the Lord, He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Plain and simple, I could not have gotten through this without my Lord. On so many days when I was unable to walk alone, He carried me ... and ... for Him , I am thankful.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trust in Him and I am helped, Therefore my heart exults and with my song I shall thank Him.
Until next time