Halloween Horror: 2017 Edition

Halloween is truly the best holiday ever! The true start of cooler weather (in SoCal, at least), scary movies all month long, twerps dressed up like their favorite heroes and villains, and let’s not forget the candy. Ahh the glorious chocolate!! But this year, a true horror is lurking in front of me. Yesterday, I had testing done to check for metastasis (mets) to my bones, specially my hip. The pain has been there for months, I just attributed it to a lingering complication from intrathecal treatment, and it very well could be! One treatment resulted in a “wet tap” (the spinal fluid leaked out of the infusion site). I don’t get the results until Friday.

I don’t even know how to truly react other than to lay here in the dark, staring into nothing and cry. I’m numb with the exception of a cold, sweaty panic running over me every so often.

On top of this issue, I have had a “barking seal” type of raspy, wheezing cough for about the same amount of time…2 months or so. They are bad enough that I require an inhaler and an anesthetic cough drop. I see my doctor on a regular basis, but I never had the bad coughing episode that, as one of my friends asked, “Is that real or are you fucking with me?” I don’t have them everyday so it’s easy to put on the back burner.

Let’s add to the fun. I’ve had an IV in for 34 days for hydration and ondansetron infusions for 20 hours a day. Thank goodness the insurance allows me to be at home. Let me tell you, pushing around an IV pole or carrying around a pump and 2 liter bag of fluids is not as glamorous as it seems.

Bonus issue…I have intrathecal treatment on Friday, then my friends funeral is less than 3 hours later.

Suck it, cancer.

*the images are not my own.

Raise A Glass, Raise A Finger…r

1 year ago today, I saw a gynecology oncologist after 20 years of remission. For that birthday, I received a stage 4 endometrial carcinoma diagnosis and a surgery scheduled for the following month.

From that day till today, my world has been turned upside down, shaken, and then was told to pick up the pieces and find that new normal. It’s been filled with 5 surgeries, 9 rounds of chemo, and more tests, scans, and procedures than I can count.

It has also been amazing! I’ve met so many new friends that have become like family. I’ve reconnected with friends from high school and they are still the raddest chicks in the world. Some tears but a lot more laughs. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I refuse to mourn my life. Life’s way too short to sit and watch it go by and I’ve fought way too hard to keep this life going.

I never thought I could handle anything like this, especially on my own. I’m pretty stoked about that.

For this years birthday, I took that chance to keep the appointment with my oncologist and believe it would bring me good luck. It was great news that will set me on yet a new road. I truly believe it’ll be a better road. Today has been great so far, even with a trip to the infusion room! Cancer invaded so many aspects of my life in the past year and a half, but I’m not going to let that that stop me from moving forward and learning how to navigate this new normal.

Raise a glass and a finger. Here’s to 42!! 🎉🎉🎉

If tears are cleansing, I must be sterile…

*photo credit needed

I spent the last week crying. A lot. It wasn’t until this afternoon, after a very inspiring conversation, that I realized why. It’s been about 6 weeks since finding out I’m cancer free, but learning everything that’s needed to control stage 4 cancer is daunting, at best. Hormone therapy twice a week, monthly check ups and blood draws at medical oncology, exams every 3 months at gynecology oncology (starting next month, every 6 months, heeeyyyy), palliative intrathecal treatment, a laundry list of new meds…and a partridge in a pear tree. I even had my 2nd experience with “chemo coma”. 23 hours later I woke up feeling awful and very dehydrated.

My friend laid it out simply. “Own it. Don’t let it own you”. So, I gave it a voice. I cried over it. Then I beat its b*tch-ass in the ground. It was satisfying. Rewarding. Horrible and wonderful at the same time.

There’s so much information for newly diagnosed patients, patients just starting treatment, books on every type of cancer, how to fight chemobrain…and I bought every book on the subject and super stoked I did. But, now what? That’s where the extensive library slows dramatically. How do you move forward in your new normal? Harder question; how do you navigate those tricky waters as a stage 4 survivor? Very little. Harder still; all that, but add beating 2 cancers to the mix? There’s nothing that specific, but I’d be happy with just more information and guidance on chronic cancer. The hashtags #Stage4NeedsMore and #DontIgnoreStage4 are more accurate than I could have ever imagined. That, straight up sucks. A whole group of fighters and survivors cut out of the equation. Why? The medical profession giving up on the whole “one foot creeping too close to the grave” thing? Terminal cancer patients not worth *truly* going out on that limb? Not much use to “rearrange the deck chairs of a sinking ship”? Whatever the reason, being in the bottom end of this cancer soup has really hit me hard this last week. I just couldn’t give it a name. Today I did…

I call you out, traitorous body.

Then, I thought about it. Not just the way of thinking that you rush through and stuff down till another day. I *thought* about it. I came to grips with it. I took inventory of my *path* that was laid out in my skin like a Rand McNally map. The changes of the terrain of my body, inside and out. It destruction of dangerous roadways to make way for new, more inhabitable travels. The whole of the old scenic route gutted. This body suffered. A lot. A breast here, another there. Don’t forget the cuff of the lower cavity, bladder and bowels that were pieced back together and tucked in neatly behind a 10″ scar. An unnecessary and very large scar in lieu of 3 tiny 1″ scars. A scar that was the product of a wayward scalpel on a fairly new version of surgical technology that would make my debulking surgery less invasive and cut down on healing time. It would have been awesome had it happened like that, but that was the half full version of the process and not at all realistic. Not the time for that story…

After making all the mental tally marks, I started to see the beauty in the exposed road. It was…is new. It’s slow going and I’m not naive enough to think I’m able to rush though this process. For better or worse, this is my body. A new body. A new start. A new normal.

12:02am. 42nd year…

Btw, yes I’m aware of the bad pun in the title. My mind was taxed. It’s been a long day.

Let Your Mind Go…

In 1996, I was diagnosed with stage 1 endometrial carcinoma. The doctor said it would be easy (don’t you hate hearing that sh*t?!?). Then he proceeded to tell me I had the vagina and reproductive organs of a 50 year old. Thanks, dick. Great thing to tell a newly diagnosed, scared 21 year old with an 8 month old in a baby carrier on the floor next to her. I was lucky! I was able to have a baby.

Fast forward to 2016. I found a funny spot on my right breast. After a million tests, I was diagnosed with ER+/PR- HER2- stage 1A breast cancer. The floor fell right out from under me. I went to my appointment alone. I sat in my car alone trying to process everything I was told. I made my first appointment with an oncologist alone and started looking for a surgeon alone. I drove home alone. You get the idea…

I had gotten a divorce in May of the previous year, I was in a new house, but mostly, I was alone. After 21 years with the same man, I was still getting my footing as a “strong, independent woman”. Now “alone” seemed like a thick word. Just saying it was like fighting thru a throat full of cotton.

I didn’t tell anyone at first. For some strange reason, I felt like I had failed myself. I felt like I had failed my daughter. All she knew was a family unit, then that failed. I had lived since I was a teen with my partner and that relationship failed. Now, what? …

A few weeks after, I had some odd “female” issues. Issues that had no place in a woman that had had a radical hysterectomy 20 years before. After a gynecologist appointment, I was referred to gynecology oncology. Whatever slight finger hold on reality I had was gone. After a million more tests I had the answer I was dreading since 1996. Stage 4 recurrent endometrial carcinoma. It was August 29th. My 41st birthday. I didn’t hear much after that. Things got fuzzy, black, and tunnel-like. I was led to surgery scheduling. After a very complicated debulking surgery, they discovered the cancer had spread to my colon and bladder. The healing process was fairly uneventful, thank goodness. That little and unattended issue of breast cancer was now looming unchallenged.

The…my, bilateral mastectomy was 7 months ago. After that was a port surgery and a month later, a re-excision on my left chest, which removed all remaining tissue as well as all the remaining muscle in my chest wall.

I hadn’t really put that much thought into breast reconstruction. Considering I was very well-endowed before surgery and my biggest fear (and source of terror!) was waking up flat. After dealing with 5 surgeries and countless procedures and tests, not to mention being poked and prodded (on both ends 😳) for the better part of a year, reconstruction was just not that important. I have prosthetics. 2 sets to be exact. A pair of C cups and a pair of G cups. Go big or go home!! I have worn them maybe 5 times. They’re hot, uncomfortable, heavy and most importantly, they’re not me.

To be honest, I like my body. I’ve come to like my scars. They’re pretty badass. Strangely enough, I’m more comfortable in this “new” body than the one I had known for 41 years. It has been such a short time and I can say I’m happy with myself. I also have a helluva lot more confidence now, breasts or not.

Maybe it’s because I fought so hard for this body. For this life.