My Cancer Story

Monday, January 4, 2010, I took my morning shower before work. Everything was fine and healthy. Tuesday, January 5, there was a small little bump in my left breast. It kind of felt like a jelly bean, and was about the same size. I thought it odd, but didn’t give it another thought until I went to bed. I laid on my back and did a self-breast exam. The lump was still there. Now, I am a middle-aged woman, and was at the time, too. Breast tissue is reactive to gravity. If I lay on my back, my breasts do too. 😡 The lump did not move. It was still hard and in the very same spot. The next morning I called my doctor. He examined me on Thursday, and (I love him for this!) said, “Well. I am not really sure, and am not too concerned at this point. However, I am not the expert at this, so let’s send you to her.”

I was scheduled right away and saw her on Monday, January 11. I had a physical exam and she couldn’t find anything. They did a mammogram and couldn’t find anything. So they did an ultrasound and finally found it. They had a cancelation in their day so I was able to have biopsy the same day. They made an appointment for the following Monday (January 18) to go over the results with me. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day so I had the day off from work. My husband offered to go with me. I said he was being silly. I am the epitome of good health. All of my blood work is in the exact middle of levels for the tests they run. My bad cholesterol is very low. My good cholesterol is very high. My blood pressure is relatively low and healthy. I was just sure I was wasting my time by even going in, but they always schedule a return visit for biopsies.

The doctor and nurse came in and sat down. I was reading and was in the middle of a paragraph. I politely put my finger on the word, so when they told me it was all clear, I could finish the paragraph and be on my merry way. I completely lost my place in my book when the doctor sighed heavily and said, “I am completely surprised by this because I thought it was nothing, but you have cancer.” Much like when the doctor told me that my second child was a girl when I was *just* sure that I was carrying a boy, I stared at her dumbfounded and asked if she was sure.

I really don’t recall all the words that were said at that time, but I clearly remember being told that my results were shared with the hospital’s cancer board. I remember being very offended, frightened, and angry that I had a condition that needed a board–a board of DOCTORS, no less–to discuss my course of action. The doctor had an opening that Thursday in her schedule for surgery. Since I wanted this offensive growth gone, I jumped at it. I had a lumpectomy–that’s where they take the tumor and surrounding tissue, and they only had to remove one lymph node. I caught it early enough the cancer had not spread. This was one day before my birthday. Happy flippin’ birthday to me!

As far as cancer horror stories go, mine was a cake walk. I joke that I had Cancer Lite. I had a close friend, Traci, diagnosed the same week as I was. Mind you, she had been sick for a year and a half, and they finally found out she was sick from cancer, not stomach ailments. She is still off work–cancer-free, but off work due to all the treatments and medicines and procedures. I got out of my cancer experience very easy.

I had six weeks of radiation. At the end of that I started a medicine called tamoxifen. It is a “fake” estrogen that goes into my system, and if there are any cancer cells they attach to the medicine instead of me and starve to death. A decrease in estrogen is basically aging. It’s not just the cancer cells that react to the medicine. My body is aging slightly faster than other women my age. I have compared aches and pains stories with my sisters, and one of them is a twin. They feel great and still feel young. I wake every morning with stiff joints and sore muscles. I feel like I have been in a minor car accident and have the aches and pains associated with that. Every damn day. But I wake up each day. I’ll take the pain.

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This is Harder Than it Looks (But Not as Hard as I make it Look)

I really would like to say that I make blogging look easy, but oh my gosh–if anyone based their launch into the world of blogging on my scant and short history, they’d never get started. I swear, in my head I was going to be much more devoted, diligent, and devastatingly humorous.

This was going to be “I had Cancer” story, but quite honestly the last couple of weeks have been hard to deal with, stressful and busy. I am just not up to sharing my cancer story.

My eldest is still looking for a job. Finally, she got a call back from a great opportunity not far from home, hours that will work great for her, and (I think) it’s slightly higher than minimum wage. However, as with any job hunting experience, it has been stressful, scary, and a bit depressing. I know that she has not gone through anything more than the multitude of job seekers in our community. It is still hard to go through, and hard to watch your child go through it. It has certainly prompted many in my area to get prayers from an anonymous stranger (me). She is waiting for her background check to be completed, so hopefully in a week or so I will be blogging about my employed child.

And holy cow, did I forget how busy school gets. Granted, I only have one in school now, but I have quickly been reminded of the fast pace of high school life. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but I am a Cheer Mom. I am not one of those who get over-involved in her daughters’ lives, but I do enjoy watching the cheer team. I am sure this will not be the last mentioning of cheer events. In fact, I can *pretty much* guarantee it will not be.

This weekend is homecoming. That means tailgating with the football team’s families. Since this is my fifth year with the cheer program, I was drafted, er I mean I volunteered to coordinate our team’s participation. If you are remotely unfamiliar with me, please feel free to read my previous blogs on — “Autumn’s Resolutions”, “Attention Deficit Dis–Hey, how are you?”, and “Procrastination.” Suffice it to say I avoid planning and organizing. Alas, I’ve been drafted. I got around to it last night. Homecoming is Saturday. Julie On the Spot!

This entry was pretty much an apology to those few of you who wait for me. I appreciate it and don’t even mind the reminder emails you send. I can’t promise another one too awfully soon, but I do promise I’ve already put some time aside on my weekend’s agenda to fine tune a few of the entries I’ve started.

You know, unless I can find something else that distracts me …

Four years, four months

That’s how long I have been cancer free. Four years, four months. It’s been a great run, but I am ready for it to be done. Eight more months. That’s all I have left to take my daily pills. I assume it has kept me alive. I don’t know that I needed them, but I know it has not let anymore cancer develop. I am not sure it would have, but it didn’t.

My next blog will be my cancer story. I was going to include it here, but I am very happy about this appointment and when I was typing it up, I was sad. (Not that it will be sad to read it, but it really happened to me. Ugh!)

I see both my medical oncologist and radiation oncologist every six months. I am very happy to say that I am down to one mammogram per year, too. My tumor was right next to my rib cage. That is the tissue that needs to be examined closely. Those ladies out there who have had mammograms know the pressure of “regular” mammograms. Can you imagine having two extra images taken right on your rib cage at every mammogram? And doing that twice each year. Y e a h . . .

I just visited my radiation oncologist. My doctor reviewed my chart–four years and four months since I started my medicine. She said that I have less than a year to go. I am scheduled for a six month return visit. Then she said, “After your next pair of six-month appointments, we’ll only be seeing you once a year.” Aren’t those beautiful words?

 

Procrastination

Hello, my name is Julie and I am a procrastinator. I am a procrastinator like my mother before me. Maybe even her mother before, but I doubt it. That would be my grandmother, and sorry–Grandma was perfect, so she probably worked on things when she should have.

In fact, the make-shift, pretend schedule I’ve put myself on to post here has been delayed twice. And I’ve only been on this for month. Last week I was ornery. This week I am using the Labor Day holiday weekend as my excuse. Granted, I’ve been back to the real world for two days now, and I am just getting this done. But … you know–the holiday weekend, and all.

What tops it is my complete lack of ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I have a whole notebook full of topics and ideas. The mood I am still in makes none of them funny to me. I have eight drafts that I have started. That’s how many are not funny or fun or really that informative right now.

I keep trying to figure out what it is, and the only conclusion is that I am a irritable person right now. It’s because of this procrastination thing I suffer from, because I am sure it is an affliction and not laziness. I am sure of it.

In my defense, (because people with afflictions need a defense … wait, that’s not quite right) there is a lot going on in my life. Um. You know. The whole “school starting back up” thing–because my daughter, in her third year of high school, needs me so much right now. Heck, I am lucky if my sweet child even makes eye contact with me. Oh, that’s not true–she does make eye contact, then immediately rolls them to the back of her head, sighs heavily and stomps out of whatever room I am in. Unless I have food. I am Super Mom when I have food.

My eldest does need me (and her dad) right now. She is going through changes, but they certainly are not all-consuming changes for me. They are the age-appropriate changes that we, as parents, have been working toward. And while she needs us, I certainly have my own time. That time is just swamped! (Imagine me delicately wiping my furrowed brow in a very genteel manner.)

Oh! the responsibilities I face. I have had to restart my dryer three times. And you know what I’ve done? Let the clothes sit there for three cycles. In my defense, (there it is again!) I really hate folding laundry. And washing it. And cleaning. And cooking. And getting groceries. So, I put all that off until … later.

So, here is my post a day or so late. I do have my to-do list at the ready to get the house cleaned. I’ll try to finish that laundry. But it is a really nice day out. Maybe after dinner I’ll grab a beer and relax on my deck.

In my defense, housework can wait.