Today I met with my oncologist for my regular 2-3 month checkup. My blood work looked great (always slightly anemic, thanks chemo) and I got a clear bill of health for all other signs of cancer. No pain. No rash. No nausea. My heart is doing well. I still take Tamoxifen everyday and I still receive my infusion of lovely Herceptin every 3 weeks. I still take heart medication everyday so my heart can withstand these drugs. These infusions leave me groggy and tired and sometimes feel like I have the flu, but so far it's been very doable and I'm grateful for my parents and sister and husband and friends who support me every three weeks when I have to leave and be at the infusion center.
I have such a solid support system who encourage me everyday. They've been through the trenches with me and Matt from the beginning and are still by my side. And they never complain or make me feel like a burden. I've learned to stop apologizing and feeling guilty. It's ok. Thank you for showing that to me by your example.
Thank you to all those who continually give me and my family words of support and love. Thank you for the thoughtful note, letter, text, message, email, etc. Thank you for asking how I'm doing and asking specific questions about treatment. Thank you for letting me talk freely and not being scared when I'm real! Thank you for offering help in serving my family. Thank you for saying yes and moving things around to help watch my cute kids when I have appointments and can't be home to take care of them. Thank you for taking my son to school that one morning when I literally couldn't get out of bed. Thank you for understanding when I have to cancel plans previously made, or for when I'm late getting out the door and I don't have to explain why. Thank you for making living with cancer bearable. Thank you for easing my family's burden by taking on a small bit of it whether it be physical or emotional support.
Thank you and God bless you!
I haven't updated this blog because I didn't think anyone wanted to know the nitty gritty of what I've been experiencing this year. Cancery stuff is overwhelming. It's a lot of doctor appointments and testing and recovery and being tired. It's not pretty. I don't feel like I need to lay it all out there and make you see just what it's like. However, about a dozen people have asked me to update. They love reading about what I'm experiencing and going through. And (unfortunately) newly diagnosed friends of friends have come to read this blog to seek advice or hope. So OK! I will share some of what it's like being an oncology patient and experiencing what I've been going through these last few months.
First of all, most of all, I am doing well. I talked to my therapist today and as she checked my mood and we talked about how I'm doing, she said I have a healthy way of coping and a great perspective as I navigate my way through this mess. I am so proud of myself for being positive, optimistic, and having a healthy and strong mind. For some it is not a choice. Depression is real with cancer patients. But lucky for me it is a choice. I choose to be happy (well, like 85% of the time I am-sometimes I choose anger or frustration too). I choose to live the best life I can. I choose to not feel sorry for myself. I choose to serve others and do all I can to be a good example to my kids. I choose to do extra and make plans for the future. It's a choice. I know I have every reason to do and feel the opposite, but we only get this one life. We only get this one chance. My mortality is so real now and I have a wonderful perspective on how to live and what's important. Hooray for that.
I read and posted the previous July blog post because it shows what was entertaining my mind at that time. It's always interesting looking back on what I was experiencing at the time and thinking "wow that was hard" or "calm down you have no idea what's coming...". A few new things I've experienced since that post was a big trip to the ER in the middle of the night because I had a ruptured ovarian cyst. It came so suddenly and was extremely painful. I told Matt as I breathed through the pain "this is how it ends..." trying to be funny, but kind of serious. Now I know what a ruptured ovarian cyst feels like and won't need to go to the ER for it (Tamoxifen causes these cysts but we can't know for sure), but grateful for my parents for being able to come over and be with my kids and grateful for a husband who takes care of me and does a great job at sleeping whenever I'm in a hospital bed, haha. I also saw a pulmonary specialist because......I have asthma. I guess life keeps going and other physical ailments happen that aren't cancer related. I wonder if I had asthma before cancer and my treatment made it worse or more noticeable? I now have an inhaler. Have I used it? No, I'm stubborn. But when it feels like I'm trying to breathe and wheeze through a very tiny straw (and it's not improving) I just may use it.
In October I started to get headaches. Those were accompanied by dizzy spells. Then blurred vision. I started to wake up with headaches and they lasted all day. For about 6 weeks I tried just about everything to try and relax and relieve myself from these headaches (were they caused by lack of sleep or stress?). I finally talked myself into messaging my oncologist. He asked me a few questions about my headaches. I sat on them for a week or two. Answered and asked him a question back. He replied. I sat on his answer for another week. Then I just flat out asked for a brain MRI. I don't get routine brain scans (because it's your brain). I'm still advocating for myself, asking questions and demanding answers. I got them.
I have an astigmatism. Left eye. I needed new prescription glasses.
I found this the day after my brain MRI. Getting a brain MRI was miserable. If you get a brain MRI do not listen to classical music as your choice. Listening to the lovely Beethoven pandora station while the vibrations and loud noises were clinking around my head felt like I was in some horror sci-fi movie and the classical music only enhanced the juxtaposition. I'd suggest some heavy metal or explicit rap...just kidding...
Now that I figured out my lungs (I also have a lung disease from the scarring from radiation called pulmonary fibrosis-holla!) I am finally able to increase my exercise and get in better shape.
Cancer gave me a 2 year setback. I am now where I was between the time Violet was born and when my cancer exploded (which was just a brief 4 months). It. Is. Frustrating. Frustrating to have so many setbacks like vertigo and cardiomyopathy, and vision problems, and lung issues, etc making it so I have to take breaks from exercise and recovery. However, I don't give up. I let myself feel that deep real and raw frustration and I use that feeling to power and motivate me to never give up.
Just like Poppy sings in the movie Trolls (Violet's favorite movie) When you knock knock me over-I will get back up again.
This year was incredible. I had so many new and good and memorable experiences. I learned to play the ukulele, I watched my boys play soccer, baseball, and basketball, I went to Women's Conference, I turned 30 in Hawaii
Matt and I went to the BYU vs U of U football game, I tried so many new recipes, I taught my kids to read (age 6), the alphabet sounds (age 4), and the alphabet letters (age 2). We went to California to spend a few days at the beach and visit family. 4 generations :)
This year I was able to speak to a few different groups and organizations about my cancer experience, I grew grew grew my hair and it's almost to my shoulders, Matt took me to the Symphony to hear Rhapsody in Blue (my favorite)
We went on a family adventure to Yellowstone National Park and it was my most favorite family trip
We also adventured around the Grand Tetons
Another first was a big trip to Bear Lake, lots of quality family hikes without anyone complaining or needing to be carried
My favorite first was our family garden! We had 14 different types of produce growing in our backyard all throughout the spring, summer, and fall. My new favorite hobby.
Lots of infusion dates with my Matt
We put together a gnarly Harry Potter Birthday party for my brand new 7 year old
Best money ever spent was buying Lagoon passes and enjoying it for 7 straight months and getting to enjoy the thrills of the roller coasters with my boys.
We were able to go to the Little Pink Houses of Hope retreat in Lake Tahoe. We met wonderful people and made so many family memories.
The future is bright and we are so excited for 2018. We have about 6 different family trips planned. Just this next month I am going with Matt to an awards ceremony in Washington DC and so he and I will have a nice little getaway. We were also chosen by Inheritance of Hope to go on the metastatic breast cancer retreat to Orlando Florida in January. They are sending all 5 of us on an all expenses paid trip to Orlando where we will be able to go to Magic Kingdom, Sea World, and Universal Studios. We will learn a lot of good things on this trip and I will make a commitment to write about it here :) People are so good. I am looking forward to all of the new things 2018 will bring.
I hope all the health and happiness to all of you. Thank you for following along with me on my journey :)