Port Shift?

When I got the port place, it felt awkward. It was like, “Holy crap, there’s something popping out of my chest.” Not actually popping our of my chest, but it’s there and it’s foreign and it’s weird. I still sort of feel that way, but I’m used to it.

So back to the beginning. I remember being afraid that if I sneezed a really good sneeze, like one of those muscle-popping sneezes, that the port would just pop out of my chest. I can’t explain why I felt that way, or how I thought that could happen, but I totally did. I presented this concern to the doctor, even though I was fairly sure it was an irrational concern. She said not to worry, that port wasn’t going anywhere.

Challenge accepted.

Enter jump castle. Correction. Enter jump castle obstacle course.

I thought it would be wise to show how great my endurance was and how quickly I could move through the jump castle obstacle course since I’ve been getting so much exercise, building muscle, etc. So after going through it once solo, I decided to race my sister-in-law.

You can imagine how this went. Long story short, we collided somewhere in the middle. She sprained her wrist, I overstretched my left arm, and I’m pretty sure I popped a stitch on my port because there’s a little wobbliness that wasn’t there before.

Shrugs.

I’ll see my surgeon this week and she can check it out, but everyone at the oncologist said it looked okay. It is attached to my jugular, so if there was an issue, I’d know about it by now. It’s been over a week and I’ve had an infusion through it, and nada.

So yeah…if you have a port…maybe jump castles aren’t the best place to be…or at least a jump castle race might not be the best decision.

Oh! I did win the race against my sister-in-law, but I then challenged my brother-in-law and lost miserably.

Second moral of the story – when you’ve got something crazy going on with your toenail, jump castles might not be the place to be.

Random Additions

There are a few random things I thought of that I’m not sure if I ever shared…when I started this blog I vowed to myself to include it all so that maybe one day it might be helpful to someone looking for a real account of what breast cancer was like for someone.

Fingernails – I did not lose my fingernails or toenails. My oncologist said it was a possibility; it was one of the things he brought up while I was super-focused on food. Anyway, I didn’t lose them (although I think I am about to lose the toenail off my big toe), but I did have weak spots that have just grown out. They were deep ridges in my nail that started at the cuticle and as the nail grew, eventually moved their way up, and promptly broke when they reached the tip. They’ve all reached their breaking point, so my nails are currently a mess.

I think the toenail thing is mostly unrelated to treatment. My toenails have been totally fine and haven’t had that same ridge in them like the fingernails. I ended up with a black and blue spot on the side of my toenail. I can’t remember bumping it or anything, but I can’t remember much so I can’t discount it. I still have some neuropathy in my toes, so I could have easily not felt whatever hit it, if something hit it. Anyway, today there was a little blood along the edge, so I think the nail is going to come off. I think my exercising is aggravating it, being on the tips of my toes for planks and whatnot. I’ll keep you posted on The Toenail Saga. You’re welcome.

I Gotta Pee – Another (thankfully short-lived) effect was having to pee the moment I thought about having to pee. Let me explain…(again, you’re welcome)…there were times near the end of chemo where if I felt the urge to pee and thought about it too much before I made it to the bathroom, I would nearly pee myself. Totally random, I know. I’m happy to say that’s no longer a problem.

Chemo Brain – I still have chemo brain. It’s not as bad as it was, but I’m still a little spacey here and there, and have trouble focusing and recalling information. I haven’t gotten very specific about what chemo brain affects, so I’ll do my best here. My long-term memory seems pretty unaffected, but I have trouble recalling more recent things. For example, it may take me some time to recall what happened yesterday, but I have no trouble recalling something that happened two years ago. The ability to concentrate is kind of related to staying in the moment. Like I’ll be reading a book, and just zone out. It was really bad during chemo and made classwork super hard. I’d read the text book and, not only have a hard time focusing, but also forget what I’d read.

So those are a few things I don’t think I delved into previously. If I think of anything else, I’ll add it.

Hair

My head looks like a fuzz ball. My hair has grown to about half an inch, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s slightly uncomfortable to wear a cap/scarf over it. It feels baby soft though, which is kind of cool. It seems to be my natural color, but I’ll be able to tell a little better when it grows some more.

I’ve actually had to shave my underarms and my legs! I haven’t had to do that since September. My eyebrows and eyelashes are growing back, too. They didn’t completely fall out, but they thinned A LOT. I’m going to wait until my eyebrows really fill in before I pluck them or have them waxed.

Oncologist Update

I had my regularly scheduled appointment with my oncologist earlier this week and forgot to post an update. I guess it’s a good thing I’m keeping busy enough to forget to post…or a bad thing that I can’t remember to do it? Ha, regardless…here it goes.

As far as the oncologist goes, I left off with Dr. YB wanting to check my hormone levels and possibly start me on a shot. So Monday was a follow up to that. My hormone levels indicated that I’m already post menopausal, so that’s cool. The shot, Lupron, is a hormone therapy. I’ll be getting it for two years. After the two years is up, I’ll start Tamoxifen, which is another hormone therapy. Apparently the Lupron has better results on people my age as it completely shuts down the ovaries, versus just blocking the estrogen receptors. In another week, I’ll start a Femara pill, which will complement the Lupron.

Side effects: hot flashes. I had the shot about a week ago and I haven’t had any major hot flashes. Hot flashes were a big thing for me during chemo, so maybe I’ve gotten used to them. I don’t know. I was doing a work thing today and the woman I was with said it was chilly in the room we were in and I was warm. I’ve always ran sort of cold, so maybe I’m just on a permanent temperature change now.

So the shot could have gone in my butt cheek, but fortunately it was a small enough dose that it went in my arm. But man, it was sore! The shot itself didn’t hurt. I barely felt it, but it achhhhhhhed afterwards. But only when I moved my arm in a certain way…so naturally I kept moving my arm in that certain way to make sure it still hurt or something?

The downside of this shot is that it’s on a four week cycle, so while I’m finishing up my cycles of Herceptin, I’ll be hitting the oncologist two weeks in a row occasionally. Like April 9th and April 16th. At least the shot days will be brief.

I’ll update some more if anything changes! On another note, because we all know how much I just love talking about bowels, I’m still not quite regular. It’s very frustrating and I’d really like to have some normal BMs one day! Ugh.

Another Update

My apologies! I usually write my posts from my phone while I’m waiting somewhere for something, like in a waiting room or in the car when I arrive somewhere early. I’ve been on the go so much lately that I haven’t had any downtime like that to share an update from my Monday appointments, so here it goes:

I had my appointment with Dr JB and Dr H last Monday morning. Everything looks good as far as healing goes. We did not schedule the surgery yet, but agreed it would be early May, after mine and Brad’s 10 year anniversary (!!!!!).

I went to the appointment with a short list of ailments, ones I wasn’t sure were a result of the surgery, chemo, or life. Let’s face it, it’s been a while since I’ve felt normal! The list included neuropathy in toes, tenderness and irritation where stitches were still poking out (more on this later), swelling in legs, muscle soreness, and joint aches.

Most of this was related to chemo, or rather the end of chemo, but Dr JB recommended using ointment on the incisions, and she was concerned about the swelling. She referred me out for an ultrasound/Doppler of my legs to check for blood clots. She also said the soreness and aches were probably a result of going from being inactive to active, and that I should just push through it, which is basically what I’ve been doing.

The other thing we talked about was my weight (yay!). She’d like me to lose about 10-20 lbs before the mastectomy because it’ll be better for my healing and I’ll have better cosmetic results, too. So I’ve been working on that and I’ll share more about what I’ve been doing in another post.

I’ll see both of them again April 26th.

I took a break for lunch and talked to the scheduler at Dr JB’s office and scheduled the ultrasound for 3:00.

Then I went to see Dr YB. My bone scan turned out fine. He still wants to do the shot he talked about last time that he feels will have a better long term prognosis than the pill, Tamoxifen. In order to do what it does to battle the cancer, it shuts down ovary production. I thought my ovary production was already shut down since I haven’t had a cycle since September, but apparently not. Dr YB said that’s actually a result of the chemo. I never asked, I just assumed it was the Herceptin causing that since the Herceptin is the hormone treatment, and I associate hormones with periods, but whatever. So they’re checking some hormone levels and we’ll probably start the shot at my next appointment, the 19th.

So I had my treatment, then I was off to the ultrasound. I ended up late because I didn’t leave the oncologist until 3:00, so I got there at 3:30. For the ultrasound, they do the three main veins in the leg (the names of which I cannot remember, but you can Google it if it interests you, or someone can leave it in a comment if they know). Having that goop on my legs was absolutely nasty feeling. I did apologize to the tech for the fuzz on my legs. Still haven’t shaved since September, still nervous to shave now because of the potential for ingrown hairs from the ones that never quite fell out. It’s a wait and see game right now. Fortunately, it’s still jeans weather and the fuzz isn’t obviously long, so I can afford to wait and see. Anyway, no blood clots. Yay!

I ended up leaving the hospital around 5:00, so I missed my Monday class, which sucked considering nothing ended up being wrong with me. I’m lucky my teachers are understanding.

In other news, one of the classes I did an incomplete in, Objective Assessments, I’ll be able to do in the fall, essentially from scratch, which is awesome! Such a relief to not have to worry about that right now. And I’m glad I can retake the class because I don’t remember much about how to administer the tests and stuff.

So I’ll chat more about weight loss and the perfectly timed delivery of Girl Scout cookies later!

πŸͺ πŸͺπŸͺ

Excuse Me, Sir

I got my first “sir” at the grocery store the yesterday with Brad. I figured it would happen eventually, and it absolutely didn’t bother me. I almost laughed when the guy quickly corrected himself, but figured that would be rude. Not everyone gets my humor and he was probably more embarrassed than I was. To his credit, I was wearing a band t-shirt. I’m not sure what gave him the first clue that I was a “she.” Maybe it was the yoga pants or the pink baseball hat. *Shrugs.* The whole interaction lasted all of 15 seconds, so it’s a tiny blip on my radar and will probably happen again and again.

I know I’ve made the sir/ma’am mistake before. Everyone probably has. I guess it’s just evidence of how we expect certain people/groups to look certain ways. See someone with short hair, they have to be male! See someone with long hair, they have to be female! And so on, and so on. To each their own.

With all that being said, my hair is growing back. I’ve got about half an inch of growth on my head and it’s making it warmer! Just in time for the warmer weather…yay. And the hot flashes……….πŸ™„ I actually had to shave my underarms! I haven’t had to do that since September. I’m not even lying. Leg hair is still dormant, which is A-OK with me. I loathe shaving my legs. There’s still that little bit of stubble from when I last shaved, the hair that didn’t fall out, but it’s not visible.

Anyway, things are certainly returning to normal over here, and I’m pleased with that! I’ve got some doctor’s appointments today, so I’ll have more information to share later on or maybe tomorrow since I have class tonight. Hopefully things will remain normal!!

Chemo & Weight Loss

I think a lot of people associate chemotherapy with weight loss, or cancer with weight loss, I know I did. For me, it was because I’d known someone or seen someone with cancer or going through chemo who had lost weight. I think I applied that experience across the board, which is one of the reasons I was so concerned about being able to eat in the beginning.

So, one thing I’ve learned and talked about is how chemo and cancer are not a one-size-fits-all experience. There’re different kinds of cancer, different kinds of chemo, and different kinds of people.

The last few days I’ve been dealing with swollen ankles and feet. It’s been annoying. I think it’s because I was horizontal for so long, and taking things slow, and now I feel good and am being more physical, staying on my feet for longer periods of time, sitting upright…so gravity is doing what it does and pulling fluid down to my feet. Once I put my feet up, it dissipates.

Anyway, the swollen ankles have made me think about how I didn’t lose weight with cancer and chemo. I did lose 10 lbs the first week of the first cycle because of the taste/texture issues I was having. Once I took the nausea meds and found ways around those taste/texture issues, I gained that weight right back and didn’t lose anything again. I may have even gained weight, but I’ve only ever been weighed on the doctors’ scales through all this, and I swear those things are on a whole different frequency.

So yeah…I could stand to lose a few pounds, and now that I’m well, I’ll definitely be heading to the gym. But I don’t want to lose too much weight in my mid-section, because they need that fat to refill my chest after the mastectomy! Pretty cool deal. πŸ˜‰

Fun fact: there’s a Billy Joel channel on Sirius XM…30…I’ve often prided myself in being able to name Billy Joel songs within the first few notes. Turns out I can name them before they even get played, too! He was talking about the story behind the song and I guessed the title, and I was right!

This weekend Brad and I trekked to Baltimore, MD for a book signing. I had a great time seeing my sisters and book friends (Hi Jennifer!), making new friends, and going to the movies. We’re actually driving home as we speak. It’ll be nice to be home! I’m sure Daisy missed us (not!).

That’s all for now!!

Hey there

Sorry it’s been a few minutes since I’ve updated. I really haven’t had much to say.

I did see my oncologist the same day as the surgeon. He sent me for a bone density scan, or a dexa scan. The reason for this is because he’s considering a shot or a pill to battle out that little bit of cancer that stayed behind. He guessed that what didn’t go away was estrogen fueled, and my treatment was geared a little more towards progesterone. Or something like that…it’s been a little while and I don’t quite remember now. Anyway, because the add-on treatment would be more hormone stuff, he wanted to check my bone density.

So that wasn’t a difficult scan. I went to the same place I went for my mammogram. I laid on a table, they scanned my hip area and lower spine. There was something shaped almost like an arm that arced partway over the table, and that’s what scanned me. I’ll know those results at my appointment on the 26th.

My only side effect of the Herceptin this cycle was hot flashes. I hate them so much, but it was lovely not having to deal with anything else, and to be feeling progressively better day by day. I swear I’ve been making up for the flavor/texture challenges by eating anything and everything. Ha…not much change there. I did have a couple days of heartburn, but that was probably a result of my wonderful diet, not my treatment. I haven’t taken medication in a long, long time!!

I feel…dare I say it…normal!

Seriously, aside from my leg muscles being so sore from lack of use and my feet being swollen, I feel great! It’s wonderful.

I’ve been to both of my classes two weeks in a row. I don’t think I’ve done that since September! I’ve been working, too. I subbed a couple sessions with some great kiddos today, and I’ve been doing some contracted/as needed office work for an old boss, too. I finally feel like I’m contributing again (or will be once I get paid), and it feels nice! It’s also nice to feel like I have a little bit more purpose.

Things are kind of quiet over here, so I won’t bore you. You’ll probably hear from me next on the 26th, after my next appointments, unless something exciting happens between now and then.

Oh! I’ve got peach fuzz on my head! 😁 I wonder what my hair will be like when it grows back…

Roy, Road Trip, and Snow!

This is gonna be one of those “real” TMI posts, or at least part of it will be, when I tell you about Roy.

Roy is my hemorrhoid.

Yep.

Because why the heck not?

Most people get them because they’re constipated or they strain. Not me. I get it from the diarrhea.

He’s a little…?$&@!

So, over New Years, Brad and I went to Florida with his family. They own a time share in Kissimmee and I’ve been going with them for years. Anyway, we usually do summer, but have made the occasional winter trip.

Lemme tell you, this will probably be the last winter trip! Don’t get me wrong, time with the family was great and we had a good time. But it was just one of those “nothing is working out” types of trips.

First, traffic going down. Not fun. Brad and I left the night before because we were going to have to leave early to head home because he had work. We had a hotel voucher that was going to expire, so we decided to use it so we can start our day earlier in Kissimmee. Traffic leaving SC to enter GA sucked. Traffic on I4 around Orlando sucked. Trafffffffic succccccckkkkeed. We drove to Jacksonville Friday night and then to Kissimmee Saturday morning. (The hotel in Jacksonville was awesome, though!) His family left SC on Saturday and it took them all day to get to FL, no lie. Traffic was awful, again.

Next, it was cold. Not the usual January in Florida cold either, where it was tolerable in the day and a little less tolerable at night. It was cold, windy, and rainy. We wanted to do stuff outside but couldn’t. It didn’t help that I was trying to avoid the elements to avoid getting sick. With the exception of maybe 2 of our 5 days there, I stayed inside in my PJs and comfy clothes. It was cold. Cold.

The entire trip was such a contrast to what we usually experienced when we go there. We payed bingo and trivia, went to the bar (I had Shirley Temples, thank you very much), the guys golfed, we played games…it was still fun, but there were no long days by the pool, walking around doing nothing, nights at the bar…it was lacking because it was just so cold and dreary and dark. It seemed overcast and dark the entire time. I can’t wait for our next summer visit, because that’ll be fun.

Now let me segue back to Roy. Florida is when I discovered Roy. I think the multiple hours sitting in the car on the way down helped him make his presence known. So once I discovered what I was dealing with, we (we as in Brad) got Preparation H, and I’m pretty much good to go. Roy is quite literally a pain in the ass, but he’s fairly decent as far as hemorrhoids go. (Don’t ever Google hemorrhoids, just don’t do it. If you think you have one, just accept it and get the butt cream. Don’t look it up.) He’s of a very small and tame variety, and I’ll leave it at that.

Snow. I did mention snow in the title of this post. It’s something I’m quite familiar with, having spent 20 years in New York, however it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to not having to deal with the last 15 years. (For the record, it took me a really REALLY long time to do that math. I know I moved to SC when I was 20, but since I’m 36 – yes, I had a birthday last month, Happy Birthday to me πŸŽ‚ 🎈- I thought I’d been here in SC for 16 years. Not the case since I came here in 2002. 15.5 to be exact. Anyway…….)

We left Florida on Wednesday to return home to SC. Wednesday was the day SC was expecting a few inches of snow. A. Few. Inches. Of. Snow. I don’t know about you, but when I hear “few” I think 3, maybe 4. Anything more than that is “several.” Right? I swear, the only job where you can be wrong like 80% of the time and not get fired: meteorology. Granted, the weather is a difficult, difficult thing to predict. Anyway, Summerville got 7 inches of snow that day. Not so bad in comparison to what I grew up with. What wasn’t really considered was the ice. Everything kept freezing and melting and melting and freezing, over and over and over again. The Charleston area was pretty much closed down from Wednesday through the weekend. Some schools didn’t return until Tuesday, extending winter break by another week. It’s not that state weather emergency people are obtuse, it’s that the state is not equipped to deal with this kind of weather since it snows maybe once every 5-10 years, and is usually just a dusting. I kind of feel like something more could have been done on the highways, though, particularly I95.

So let’s talk about that trip home, shall we? We left Kissimmee at 7:00am on Wednesday. ETA was somewhere in the early afternoon, maybe 2:00? I can’t remember. Started out ok, made it out of Florida in decent time. There was some rain that slowed us down, but we weren’t expecting the wintry mix until Georgia.

Traffic started about 3/4 of the way through Georgia, when the snow started to accumulate.

It was pretty to look at.

Then we sat in traffic FOREVER trying to get into SC. Anyone who has gone north on 95 from Florida knows that when the lanes go from 3 to 2 at the GA/SC line, it’s a mess. A mess!! Add snow.

So we stopped to use the bathroom and grab a bite to eat, then continued to sit in not moving traffic.

Then we’re in SC, and for a moment, traffic parts and we see a rare sight…SCDOT plows! Note that the plows are not actually touching the roadway…

Note the surface of I95 at that point. That photo was taken near Ridgeland at about 4:00pm. It was still snowing and about to get dark. We were probably driving 25-30 mph, if that. Why? Well, because we were in a rear wheel drive V8 vehicle and anytime you hit the gas, the back end went sideways.

Enter night, and that snowy, packed down road surface turned to ice. No lie. We slid everywhere. Even going less than 5 mph in the nearly dead stop traffic. Even stopped in place. I swear the vibrations of the car alone had us sliding off the road. We weren’t the only ones having the issue, though it is the south so most people were in trucks and SUVs, or front wheel/all wheel drive vehicles.

The only way we could get traction was to ride partially in the shoulder where we could get a grip the powdery snow that hadn’t been packed down. But that only worked so much since some people were pulled over in the shoulder because no one wanted to drive in that crap! We spent about an hour within a mile of our exit, partly stuck in the shoulder, partly stuck in traffic, and partly trying to decide if we just wanted to park and walk.

So we got off in Walterboro around 6:00 pm. We were about 45 minutes from home, but decided we’d stay at a hotel because if the highway was that bad, we just knew the road home would be worse. And the hotels off the exit had no vacancies. Yay! So we said to heck with it, we would just keep going, make it to my parents to get Daisy and stay there overnight. We drove down 17a at 20 mph the entire way, with two wheels in the shoulder and every muscle clenched. We went sideways once on Highway 61, after moving back into the road after letting an emergency vehicle pass. We also only hit one curb while riding the shoulder. We finally made it to my parents house at 8:30 that night. We didn’t leave for 2 days. We couldn’t.

Brad wanted to sell his car and get a truck or something built for all weather. I talked him off the ledge. It’s not like this happens often, and we do have an SUV, we just decided to take the newer car on vacation to FLORIDA where we shouldn’t have to deal with winter weather.

So yeah…that was our snowpocalypse/snowmaggedon drama. Of course neither of us had boots or a winter jacket with us since we packed for Florida, so once we settled down, we couldn’t even go out and enjoy the snow. I’m so glad it’s over and we made it home without crashing! That was just an absolute mess.

What’s New?

Not much going on here, but a lot going on at the same time…if that makes sense.

As far as this cycle goes, it’s been about the same as the last. Maybe, dare I say it, easier. I’m either use to this crap, or the still reduced dosage of Taxotere is making my life easier. Hot flashes, diarrhea, head fog, fatigue, etc.

I can eat (a.k.a. tolerate) pretty much anything I crave, though I’m avoiding potatoes in case I have those starchy texture issues again (don’t want to ruin a favorite food for myself), and fresh brewed sweet iced tea tastes like dirt. I know, I know, not the best food/drink choices. But considering how finicky my tastes have been throughout treatment, I eat what I crave so that I can actually eat. I like and I eat healthy foods, but I can’t force myself to eat what I don’t want at that moment. It’s probably definitely most likely at least 90% mental, and that’s ok. This whole experience has been about the mental and the physical, not just the physical.

I missed my first two classes last week, but I spoke to my professors beforehand and they were cool with me missing. I’m hoping I feel well enough to go to class Thursday (Monday’s class this week was canceled for the holiday) since I’m going to miss my Thursday class next week due to surgery (future post coming about that!).

Brad and I are supposed to be going to a concert tonight with this brother, which will be nice. There’s seating, it’s not just general admission, so I feel comfortable going and not getting jostled. We’ll just have to see if I’m feeling up to it. I sure hope so. It’s In This Moment, P.O.D., Ded, and New Years Day at the Performing Arts Center.

I think what makes me feel the worst these days is muscle soreness and shortness of breath. It’s from the fatigue. I get so tired after the chemo, I end up laying around and doing nothing. Then when I want to actually do something, my muscles are like, “Yeah right,” and my lungs are like, “Yup, walking from the bed to the couch is now considered high rate cardio, ya bum!” So once I’m able to start moving again, I have to move at a sloth’s pace and work my way up to a normal human speed.

So what’s next? Here’s a little bit of what I’ll be talking about the next few days: Surgery, Roy, Road Trip, Snow, and Moving Fun!