Back to the O.R.

Oh, you know, I haven’t been in the operating room yet for 2015 and January is almost over. So I’m going to get a move on and have a small outpatient procedure done this afternoon. It will basically be Step 1 in a 2-step process to prevent any future stupid abscesses. So I can return to my life of glamour.

Things were going well earlier this month. I got my shot to stop my ovaries from making estrogen. I get another shot the first week of February. And another shot the first week of March. I was supposed to get my rather large benign adrenal adenoma examined in February, but I got a call the other day and now that is all being pushed back until March. And in February or March I’ll start a medication that makes sure there is absolutely ZERO estrogen in my body (called an aromatase inhibitor). And in April, I’ll get another shot. And in May, I’ll get another shot. And and and … for five years.

I have started to really get my energy back this past 10 days or so. I felt like my family was starting to notice me being back to normal, too. Unfortunately, I started to feel pressured to be back to my old self, and either the pressure alone or in combination with my new rapid menopause irritability has made me really feel like I can’t handle everything very well. There is this Surgery #1 of 2 for the abscess/fistula situation, and trying to arrange all the medical appointments and somehow not have to dip into my vacation time (I NEED a vacation this year), and truly the chemo is still at work in my body because let’s face it, my hair is not growing. And there are some changes afoot at my sanctuary — where my horse is stabled — and although I am SO HAPPY for those who are going to benefit from the changes, well, I just can’t handle change right now. It makes me feel out of control after living the past 6 months so out of control. Like having to go under the knife again today (which, by the way, is partly exploratory according to my surgeon and there are several different scenarios of what they could find which means I really don’t know which of many potential procedures I will be getting).

ANYWAY, my dear Lucky Alex will be moving to a new home just a mile down the road. And I hope to somehow find a way to be a part of both the old and the new. Meanwhile, I see now why the transition out of “active treatment” is touted as such a big — and dififcult — deal. I feel a lot of pressure from some people in my circle, and I just am not ready for any pressure whatsoever.

Readers, if you have dealt with transitioning out of the chemo phase, I would really be interested in hearing your stories about how you handled it and how your support system handled it — did they want you to transition right back to “normal” life? Did the hormone-treatment phase and early menopause adjustment get you some grace?




UPDATE: A friend who also is going through BC shared my blog and these are some of the responses …


Bye, bye, functioning ovaries. Hello, menopause.

I’m off to Duke (driving myself there, for once!) to get my first Zoladex injection to begin shutting down my ovaries. My type of breast cancer fed off of estrogen in my body, so we are moving on to the final phase of my treatment: 5 years of making sure there is zero estrogen in my body. Basically, we are inducing menopause. This will be different than regular menopause, though, because instead of taking estrogen replacement therapy to minimize the uncomfortable side effects (irritability, weight gain, hot flashes), I will instead take a drug type called an aromotase inhibitor to make sure I have absolutely NO estrogen in my body. Everyone is impacted by side effects of this treatment in different ways, so hopefully I will have minimal irritability, minimal hot flashes, and minimal weight gain. If not, well, I hope you can just remember the good ol’ days when I was a nice person.

I am also having a bone density scan today, too. Early menopause is associated with premature bone loss, so we have to monitor for that. There are drugs that can stop the bone loss, but they only give you that once you begin to show signs of bone loss. I think this is stupid and I keep arguing that I want to take these meds preventatively, and the doctors keep saying no. I will keep arguing today. 🙂

I will get an ovary-shutdown injection every month for 5 years. Yep. That’s 60 injections.

Attitude check

Stuart Scott of ESPN died of cancer of the appendix after battling it since 2007. I didn’t realize he was from my current hometown of Winston-Salem. I’ve been reading about him and I just love his attitude toward his cancer. Reading about him and his attitude toward his disease has really helped me, as I’ve been a bit frustrated lately and controlling my own attitude at times has been precarious.

Many people are all about exclaiming and celebrating that my chemo is over, and it’s difficult for me sometimes to join in because:

-I have been dealing with another abscess in a delicate place, which will likely eventually require a small surgery to ensure it is not recurring

-I am about to start preventative hormone therapy that will involve induced early menopause, lots of medical appointments for 5 years, and potentially a bunch of unpleasant side effects

-The side effects and cumulative toll of the chemo are still very much present and impacting me every day. And while I had been able to, remarkably, ride my horse quite well throughout this and even compete a little, well, the chemo has caught up with me. My stamina is greatly reduced, and I have had some very difficult rides lately where I get very tired or weak.

So, hearing all these, “yay, chemo is over” comments ring a little hollow and make me ever so slightly bitter because I want to be feeling better and moving on with life, but have been really feeling like I just keep stumbling over yet another thing from my cancer.

So it was good to read this from a speech Stuart gave: “When you die, that doesn’t mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live. So live. Fight like hell, and when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you.”

Stuart was diagnosed in 2007 during an emergency appendectomy and apparently went through many, many treatment approaches. He was heavily involved in martial arts and said the workouts helped him.

According to The New York Times, “To stay in shape, he endured exhausting mixed-martial-arts and cross-training workouts, sometimes right after chemotherapy treatments.”

“‘For the mind, it’s better than any chemo,’ Scott told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ early in 2014. ‘It’s better than any medicine.'”

And so, I am tired and basically bleeding from my bottom and I have a slew of medical appointments coming up. I can barely jump a full course of jumps on my horse, and have pretty much decided to delay my plans to return to competition for at least a month. But it’s true, I’m on the mend and nothing else I am facing should be as much of a nightmare as the chemo was.

So I will keep taking my traditional medicinal treatments, and even when I’m tired or when my stamina is just plain gone for the day, I will keep getting on the horse (ha!). Because nothing lifts my spirit more than this amazing animal. It’s unreal, and I’m so grateful for him.

More about Stuart Scott here.

And my sweet Lucky Alex bundled against the rain the other day.


Update: a comment from a friend who also recently completed chemo for breast cancer: “I, too, had fooled myself in to thinking that I would be skipping out of chemo back to my pre-cancer life. It is hard to explain the joint pain and fatigue.”