Catching up!

Catching up!.

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Catching up!

Wow I didn’t realize it’s been so long since I blogged.  To be honest, I think I needed to get away from cancer treatment for a while, and just re-group.  And I believe I have done that!

Last time I blogged I had 3 rads to go. Of course, now I’m done, and it’s been just over 3 weeks.  It was amazing to have so many people following my count down on Facebook, it really helped encourage me to get through the daily grind of working, going straight to the hospital after work, waiting at the hospital, getting radiated, and driving home, dinner, and bed.  It was a long 6 weeks.  I’m glad it’s done.

Just like they told me, the worst of it would come about 10 days after I finished, and they were right.  I was very burned.  Thank goodness for great creams, and I went through a lot! and Polysporin!  The fatigue just blew me over.  I wasn’t expecting it.  I mean I was told it would happen, but somehow I didn’t believe it.  and POW, did it ever.  There was one day I left work at around 2:30, went to sleep, and slept till noon the next day.  I still get tired really easily. 😦

The burn is much better, the skin has peeled off, and I’m very “tanned” in a square around my breast.  (sorry if this is too much info…I said I’d keep this real!)  I’m still not wearing my “real” bras, just a “service” one with no underwires…kind of like my Grandma bra!  It hurt too much for underwires, and with all the creams and lotions, I didn’t want to ruin one of my nice bras which hopefully I will be able to wear again very soon.

I was asked my UHN to come down and do some filming for them on what to expect when you go to chemo the first time.  They are putting together a video for people that are getting ready to start treatment.  They wanted to use real people, and real stories.  Having been there, I think that would have helped me had I been able to hear real stories instead of what the nurses told me.  It would have been good to hear a balance of both.  Hopefully the video will come out well, and will help others.  It was all done with someone asking me very pointed questions.  Some caught me and I found myself far more emotional about it then I thought I would be.  I guess that will always be with me.  When you go through chemo, it’s just not something that you easily or ever forget, ever.  But I was glad I did it.  In some ways, it was a little cathartic to talk about it in a way that could be helpful to others.

Needless to say, I am very happy to be finished radiation, and now the hard stuff is done.  The crazy part is I’m not ready to celebrate yet.  You would think I would be screaming from the roof…”I’M DONE”  but I just am not ready.  the reality is I’m really not done yet.  I still have another 6 month of Herceptin, which I go for every 3 weeks.  There are no bad side affects other than a drippy nose.  Maybe once that is done, I will feel like celebrating????  I keep planning my Conquer Cancer party, but never send out the invite.  Scared to think it’s real, scared to think its done, I don’t want to jinx anything?  I don’t know.  I just know that I don’t feel like celebrating just yet.

So I’m starting to get my energy back and feel better, I still get tired easy.  I do have trouble concentrating, and that’s made work hard.  Actually harder now than it was before.  I need to get that under control.  They have been really good at work with me, but I know come the new year, there will be an expectation that “I’m good” and let’s get going!  I’m kind of a little worried about that.

Last weekend was a very crazy weekend with too many things good and bad happening all at once. Thank goodness I was feeling better to have the energy to deal with all of it.  First the good stuff.  Carly and Hailey both had their first Qualifier for the Provincial in gymnastics.  They both did amazing! Medals were added to both their collections!  I’m so proud of them.

While at the competition, I received a call from my Sister in Law that my brother Jeffrey, the one that just ran the Chicago marathon, had a brain bleed that caused a stroke that resulted in a seizure.  Needless to say, it was extremely frightening.  He is going to be ok, no paralysis, and he’s home now.  But wow, what a nightmare for him.  The Doctors don’t know why it happened, and the put him on anti-seizure meds and took his license away for a year.  He’s extremely tired and needs time to recover.  As this was all happening, my other sister in law is at the hospital with her father, and he is not doing well.  He passed away the next morning, and the funeral was the past Tuesday.

Life takes some unexpected twists and turns.

Richard and I celebrated our 19th Anniversary on Wed.  Well, we didn’t celebrate really other than saying….let’s hope this next year is quite and uneventful!  We were to be with my Sister in Law as they were sitting Shiva for her father.  

So with so much going on, what do I decide to do….take on something new!!! Ya I know, crazy!  I had seen these beautiful lockets on line, and then my girlfriend started selling them.  and that’s how I got involved!  They make me smile, and they make others smile as well.  The beautiful part is that you tell a story through the locket, so each is very personal, very unique, and they are fun!  Although there are awareness ribbons available, and yes, I have one in my locket, it’s nice to have something that is not specifically cancer related.   I will still be donating back to Princess Margaret whenever someone purchases a locket with a ribbon in it, and that will be on going.  If you’re interested, please check out my website southhilldesigns.com/locketsdirect/default  From there you can order your locket, or host a party for me, or even join me and do this all as well.  The company is new to Canada, as it’s only been here a year, so there is lots of opportunity.  You can see lots of different ideas on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lockets-Direct-South-Hill-Lockets/774270772589810  These lockets make me smile 🙂

Of course I am also still doing www.thinkpinkdirect.com that is something I will never give up.

Oh, I completely forgot, (I can’t believe I almost forgot) I did have something so wonderful happen, so unexpected, and so unbelievable.  I get a email from my friend Judy, and she had nominated me for something on Breakfast Television.  and what happened next was incredible   I really had no idea of what I was going down to BT for, other than what Judy  had written.   Even when we arrived, I still had no idea. It was great to see Judy, and meet the other people nominated and hear all their amazing stories, and felt privileged to be included with them. I thought I would be interviewed and then would be leaving. As I now know, this was BT’s Giveback Christmas show, and they wanted to give back to those nominated that had given to their communities and had done good works. Wow, they gave us all so many fabulous gifts, that it was completely overwhelming! Thank you Judy for nominating me, for your friendship, and for a day I will always remember!!  It was certainly a bright light in a year where there were many dark moments.  Here is the link (I hope it posts properly) http://www.bttoronto.ca/videos/2864616247001/

I think I’m all caught up now, and it feels good to blog again.  I’m going to have to do it more often!

Hugs!

3 more rads!

Only 3 radiation sessions left!!  I will be done the major stuff on Nov 14th. Hard to believe.

It’s been a long year……

  • Mammogram in January
  • Compression Mammo, Biopsy & Invasive Ductral Carcinoma breast cancer diagnosis in February
  • Lumpectomy & sentinel Node biopsy, results-stage 1, grade 3 (aggressive) cancer, and clear margins from surgery in March
  • 6 rounds of chemo, 3 FEC & 3 DH from April till August
  • healing from chemo, September and on-going
  • Herceptin August and will continue to June 2014
  • 25 sessions of radiation October-November
  • healing from radiation November-December

Wow…I can hardly wait for 2014!!

The last few radiation sessions have resulted in my skin getting very burned and itchy.  So far I don’t have any skin breakage, but I don’t think I will be so lucky to continue saying that next week.  I’ve been using cold saline solution compresses to take down the itchy burning feeling.  As well, I’ve now using a steroid cream.  It’s really bad right at the side above my scar where they took my lymph node out, and that right where my bra hits.  Uncomfortable.  

I was also told by the Radiation Therapists (a huge shout out to everyone on PRI06 at Sunnybrook, there are such an amazing group of men and women!) that it is the 2 weeks AFTER I finish up rads that I will have the more severe effects on the skin.  😦  

….and then the HEALING BEGINS! 🙂

Thanks to everyone who has been following my countdown on Facebook, I love your cheers as it makes me feel like I do have my own personal posse of positive vibes from incredible people.  I don’t think of myself as anything more than someone who is doing what they need to do to get through a nasty time in my life.

Having cancer changes your life, treatment isn’t “fun”, but it’s not all horrible. I’ve tried to keep a balance in my life, and have been fortunate to have had the strength & energy  to continue working through all this.  I think I might write future blogs on what to expect, or things that might help others if they are faced with chemo etc. hmm….something for me to think about.  The harder part now will be figuring out who Randy is after cancer.  I will always live with the fear of it coming back.  Somehow I have to reconcile all that, and that’s a big thing, with getting on everyday with my life.

Having so many friends and family there for me physically and virtually, makes the tough days a little easier.  I always tell people that my record for getting through the tough days is 100%.  

It’s kind of strange to be thinking that as of the end of next week, all the major stuff will be done!  Ringing the bell, celebrating the end of chemo at Princess Margaret Cancer Care was incredible! I remember a few days later, having an emotional breakdown .   The realization of what “could have been” had my cancer not have been found so early, really hit me.  It’s hard to know how many emotion are going to surface once rads are over.  My whole focus this past year has been on getting treatment to make sure the cancer won’t come back.    

I made it through, I did it.  But I didn’t do it alone.  Yes, I was the one receiving the treatment, however, there were so many that were right there by my side, every step of them way.  

And to all of you, I am eternally grateful.

Hair, Running and my Dad

I know that might sound like an odd combination, but to me, it actually makes perfect sense.

One of the worst parts parts (for me) about chemo for breast cancer is that you know you’re going to lose your hair. I remember trying to be so brave about it, but the truth was always that, I was scared shitless that it would not grow back.  I have armed myself with wigs and scarves, and I knew I was never going to be brave enough to be “oh Naturelle”  I so admire many of my friends that have posted pictures of themselves bald.  I have never been so brave.  I do have the picture,  (I let Hailey take one picture, and one picture only, and she knows that picture is never to be seen unless I say so) and maybe next year I will post it, but right now, no, I just can’t.  

People tell me, bald is beautiful.  Like my scars, yes, they are my victory scars.  But there are days, , that I look in the mirror, and just want to vomit.  Two scars that are my reminders of what they took out of my body, one scar a reminder what they put in my body (my port) to make sure that I could take the drugs that would ensure I didn’t have to get anything else taken out.  My hair, it’s starting to peak through, but I’ll be covering my head for a long time. Now from radiation, one breast is much much darker and sensitive than the other. That will go away.  The fatigue will eventually go away.  Eventually my hair will grow back, but the scars will always be there.  A reminder that this happened.  I can never take life for granted again, innocence lost.

My hair is starting to grow back, slowly.  I actually have to shave it back a little as the first growth is chemo damaged, and radiation has slowed down the growth, so I will do that soon.  Actually Richard will.  He is much better at that than I.  He has had lots of practice!  The benefits of being married to a bald man  🙂  It’s going to be a long time before, I will “uncloak” my head.

I miss running.  The last time I really ran was in February before my surgery.  I got scared.  Scared I would fall and hurt myself.  I was never told I had to stop, but when I was told that I had to have chemo, and that chemo, and Herceptin affects the heart, it kind of freaked me out.  Plus I was tired a lot.  So I did lots of walking.  Now with radiation, putting on a run bra, and the friction of running, well let’s just say….it’s not a pretty picture.  And what would I wear on my head!  I know, these seem like excuses, but cancer plays major head games on you.

Today is the New York Marathon.  I had entry to run it today, but cancer took that away, and I had to defer.  I have run it before in 2009. I know I have had a different type of marathon to deal with this year, and that’s very true.  But it’s not the same.  Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been either 82 or 83.  Happy Birthday Daddy!!  I posted the picture below of him on my Facebook page.  Thank you for all your wonderful comments!  They are so appreciated.  

My Dad was a runner, and he was my inspiration to run, as was my Mom.  I thought they were both nuts for running marathons and half marathons.  

It wasn’t till many years after my Dad passed away that I took up running, and realized they were nuts! and how incredible the feeling of running was.  I miss my Dad everyday, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.  When I ran the NY marathon in 2009, I ran it for my Dad.  You see when he got sick, he had entry to run NY for his 5th time, but he never got to run that race.  NY was my 5th marathon, and I completed his journey.  Richard, and my brothers and sister in law’s came with me to cheer me on and share the journey, and my Mom was with me via telephone.  

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So that’s my Dad, crossing the NY finish line, and that’s me around the 10 mile mark in 2009.

Here’s my plan.  I will start running again, but probably not till the spring.  I still have a fear of sliding on the ice in the dark, and all I need is to break my leg…NOT.  I do have a treadmill, so maybe I will start there to be ready for the spring.  By spring, my hair will a grown a little more.  It grows about a half inch a month, although radiation does slow that down.  So, I will find some great run head covers, and get back out there.  I miss the social part of the run!  After all….what’s said on the run…stays on the run!  Kind of like Vegas!  

I have 8 more radiation sessions to go.  I’ve been working through all of it, as I did through my chemo.  I am starting to feel the fatigue.  On Friday I came home, went to bed at 7, and didn’t come downstairs till 11 yesterday morning. I’m guessing I was tired 😉  I’m told I will start to feel like “me” again in January.  I’ve said it before, I’m not sure what me is anymore.  

As I re-read all this, I know I sound down, and I really don’t mean to.  But I promised, I would keep my blog real, and I guess “down” is how I’m feeling.  I share the ups and the downs.  I’m hoping for lots more “ups” as I get away from the everyday treatment.

It’s hard for my family and for those around me to really understand what’s going on inside me.  I look good on the outside.  I tell people I’m fine, doing well.  Hopefully soon, I really will be!

Hugs

Randy

 

Half way through “Rads”

I know I haven’t posted in quite a while.  I was actually having trouble logging in….figured out it was my laptop settings.  Go figure!

I just re-blogged a post from my friend Stephanie, as I have had so many people ask me about what they could do to help.  Stephanie said it all.  She is quite a remarkable woman, and glad that I’ve met her.  Her blog is amazing.  

Anyway, I am half way through radiation, I’ve done 12 of 25!!  So far so good.  Other than having one very tanned armpit and side of my chest, I’m doing fine.  No burns, or tenderness. I’m tired at the end of the day, but that’s more because it’s a long day.  I go right from work to the hospital and then home.  I chose to do my radiation, or “rads” as “those in treatment” call it, at Sunnybrook as it is literally 10 minutes from my house, and on my way home from work.  I work in Markham, so trying to get downtown to Princess Margaret was going to be challenging everyday for 5 weeks.  Even my Oncologist suggested I do what worked for me.  

The question I get asked the most is…”How often do I go for Radiation”  EVERYDAY!  It’s a grind no doubt.  I do get the weekend and holidays off…yippee!  I will be done Nov 14th.  I am told that the side effects really come after I’m done.

I’m not surprised as most of the side effects I’ve had from Chemo also came after I was done.  I’m now 9 weeks done, and still having issues.  The one thing that is difficult, is that most people assume that because I’m done, that I’m done.  The truth is, that it is just a beginning again.  When you have chemo, your whole body is affected, everything.  Even my tear ducts were messed up for a while.  I’ve been trying to find out more about detoxing but it’s hard to really understand it all.  My friend has been helping me try and navigate what I need, but it’s going to be a long road to recovery.

I had to have a chat, or in this case and email with my boss.  He has been wonderful as has everyone at work.  I make sure I look good everyday when I go to work, and I think that’s actually worked against me….LOL!  Go figure.  Because I look good, everyone assumes, I am good, and the truth is that I’m far from good.  But I will get there.  I’ve been told that I should start to feel “like myself” again around January.  Can’t remember what that feels like, but I suspect, that it will be different from what it was before this all started.   I have worked through all my treatment, and taken off what I have needed to take off.  It was the right decision for me on many levels, and I’ve been fortunate to work for a company that has been very understanding about what is going on.  

Richard, Carly, Hailey, and myself along with Richard’s brother Corey, and his son Matthew, and the girls friends, Meg and Syd walked in the Run for the Cure.  Why is it every walk we’ve done for breast cancer…it has rained!!??

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I guess PINK is my colour from now on…good thing I like pink!

I’m still figuring out this blogging thing, and it seems that i am supposed to “tag” the subject, so I’m going to try and start doing that.  Not entirely sure what that does, but we’ll see…

I have now finished 6 of my Herceptin treatments.  I think there is 18 all together.  I can’t remember.  It means going to back to Chemo Daycare every 3 weeks at  Princess Margaret, as this drug is administered through my port.  I also get Mugascans every 3 months at Mt. Sinai to make sure my heart is functioning properly.  Herceptin can affect the heart.  So far I’m good, no issues there.  It does mean lots of hospital visits.

You find out all this stuff, that really you never wanted to know.  Every treatment has side effects. every treatment could lead to other issues, even other cancers, but we’re not going to go there.  I chew so many mints to take away the bitter taste that has lingered from chemo (yes another side effect), that I’m sure I will end up with tooth decay when this is all said and done! One thing at a time!

I did find out that parking costs while in treatment can be written off on your taxes.  (I never knew I could do that). The cost of parking is so crazy at the hospital.  Rarely is it less than $20 a visit.  Sometimes I take the subway down.  I was able to get a weekly price at Sunnybrook while in radiation.  So I’ve gone back and listed every time I’ve had to be at the hospital since this all began, and wow….does it ever add up quickly.

That’s it for now

Hugs everyone, Randy