I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and have decided to blog about my journey. If you need to catch up on my story, please check out this page for the chronological list of posts.
This was a busier week in the cancer world, believe it or not. Treatment might be over, but the appointments keep coming!
On Monday I met with my awesome nurse navigator and a reporter up at the cancer center. A local publication had asked my nurse navigator for names of women who would be willing to be interviewed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since she knew I had been very open about my experience, she gave the reporter my name. So Monday was the day of the interview and we talked about my cancer experience for almost two hours.
Even though the dust has settled in my cancer world (so to speak), it only takes a slight breeze (like this interview) to stir things back up. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely causes me to step back and think “Holy cow, it’s been a rough year!” It makes all the good things happening for our family right now that much sweeter (remember my lesson from blackberries??).
Monday afternoon I received a call from the coordinator for the self-image program. She told me that they had a cancellation which left a very convenient opening for me to get a facial, prior to my afternoon appointment at the cancer center the following day.
So on Tuesday I went up to the cancer center for some much-needed relaxation. I swear, facials are the best! After my appointment was done, I walked upstairs for my monthly port flush. Since I had my oophorectomy last month, I didn’t need to have the big Zoladex shot anymore.
Then it was time for my survivorship appointment. I had no idea what to expect. Who would be there? How long would it take? What exactly were we going to be discussing? Turns out it was the nurse practitioner and me, sitting in a conference room, looking over the draft of my survivorship plan.
The idea of a survivorship plan is to have essential information summarized in a document that a patient can keep with them in case of future recurrence or some other need. If someone needed to be treated at a cancer center other than where they were initially treated, this document would be very important to have. So at my appointment, we went page by page through this packet of information – basically the medical aspect of my cancer journey summarized into one tidy little package. What chemo meds I had and in what dosage; my tumor pathology results; location and amounts of radiation. As you might expect, this appointment turned out to be a dust-churning breeze as well, seeing the past ten months outlined in black and white in front of me.
The nurse practitioner informed me that I would now be starting a medication called anastrazole (which is the generic name for Arimidex). This is the estrogen-suppressing drug that I will take every day for five years. Even though I had my ovaries removed, there are other ways that the body creates estrogen, so I still need to take the daily pill. We chuckled as we went over the list of possible side effects because I am already experiencing most of them due to, first, the Zoladex shots and now my oophorectomy.
The rest of the survivorship document talks about the different ways that I need to be taking care of myself to manage lingering treatment symptoms as well as to prevent recurrence. I got a little choked up as we went over the very vague list of things to watch for that might signal a recurrence. Basically, watch for new pains or worsening pains. I can see how cancer survivors could drive themselves crazy with a list like that! I know that I need to be more in tune with my body than I have been in the past, but I definitely don’t want to dwell on every ache and pain. I’m hopeful that I will be able to find a balance.
I forgot to ask about my port removal at the time of the appointment, so later I spoke with my nurse on the phone. Since I am moving to a new area, I would like to have my port removed sooner rather than later. She said she would send an order over to the surgeon so I could have that taken care of soon. The surgeon’s office called the next day and set up the appointment for the first week in November. This will be after we move, but I don’t mind because I will be able to have one last check-up with my awesome surgeon.
As I left my survivorship appointment and my last port flush at the cancer center, I was sad and a little scared. There is a certain trust that develops with the doctors and nurses who see you through the scariest time of your life. Since I am moving to a new town with new doctors, I am feeling a little bit lost. My local team is helping a ton, researching doctors in my new area and sending referrals, but I still feel a little bit apprehensive about switching to a new team. Even though I’m sad to say goodbye to my local cancer team, I am looking at it as just another way to put this chapter behind me. I am hopeful that my only need for the expertise of my new cancer team will be at my regular follow-ups.
I am surviving my experience of being the sole grown-up-in-charge-of-everything 24/7. I have five days to go. You know what would have made it a touch easier? If we were all healthy. This cold has kicked us in the pants. I think what I miss the most about a healthy family is Ladybug sleeping in her own crib (even if it wasn’t for the whole night…even just an hour). Since she has been sick, she won’t go in her crib. At all. To add insult to injury, she insists on sleeping with her arms wrapped around my neck, like I’m one of her stuffed toys.
But, you know, my complaints are only half-hearted. I’m grateful that I’m here to be a giant human teddy bear. I’ll take a sleepless night full of headlocks via toddler any day because every day is a gift. A messy, chaotic gift.