80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:
As I did my 2 mile walk-run last Sunday at the park, I felt the breeze on my face and watched the river flow by next to the trail. It felt good to be there again. I tried to remember back to last summer when my world was intact and everything chimed along without the constant interruption of doctor’s visits, tests, and statistics. What a different time that was. I was training for my half marathon, and I had almost gotten to the point where I could do 10 miles with just a few minutes rest. It seems like a million miles away….before my body betrayed me.
I’m not going to lie to you. I’m a positive person, and I love to laugh and make fun of myself, but this crap is starting to wear me down. It’s getting in my head. This odyssey began in March like an atomic bomb, and then it was off to the races. CT scans, bone scans, surgery, endless combinations of pharmaceuticals, blah, blah, blah…..
I know that a lot of my current mindset has to do with the medically induced menopause that may or may not be permanent. I’m now 3 months into chemo with one more month to go, and the drugs are slowly but surely killing my ovaries. I have hot flashes at night that interrupt my sleep and dark thoughts that creep into my days, and I don’t like that.
Today I was looking at Naturopath programs online. This is an area that really fascinates me, and I think it would be very fulfilling to help people heal with natural methods and nutrition. I was excited for about 10 minutes when I caught myself thinking “I don’t know if I have time for that. It’s a 4 year program.” Low estrogen does not create a happy place for me. I knew this before I was ever aware of “the cancer”. That’s why I was taking bioidentical hormones. They just made life better all around. It seems cruel that just when I found a good balance, it was pulled out from under me with no alternative.
Aside from the hormonal roller coaster, cancer just plain messes with your head. I don’t think I ever realized how powerful knowledge is. The knowledge that you have a potential death sentence hanging over your head. Last summer, I was blissfully ignorant. I had this time bomb ticking inside of me, but I went about my business, and I ran, and I feared nothing. I remember thinking that they must have the wrong chart when they told me I had breast cancer. I felt so alive and healthy. I wondered on the way home today if I would still be going full steam without the limits my mind has imposed.
They say that my 10 year survival rate is 82%, which is much higher than the statistics I saw on the internet when I was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I should be happy with the news, yet I still question all the time whether I’m doing the right thing in following the “standard of care”. It just never quite made sense to me that I could heal my body by destroying my immune system with poison and radiation. This is a daily struggle in my mind. Sure, I’m doing a lot of alternative things to minimize the damage, but can my body overcome it? It’s a gamble at best and a very difficult road to travel.
I guess the bottom line is that I’m tired. I’m just tired. And there’s a lot more of this journey left to endure. In less than a month, I’ll face a whole new set of decisions surrounding radiation therapy and Tamoxifen. Some women do fine with both. Some suffer miserable, long-term side effects. I’ll face this with the same rebellious determination that I’ve relied on to this point. The doctors are going to have to prove to me why I should inflict more trauma on my body and my psyche. 82%. Those are my odds with just surgery and chemotherapy; I think it will be hard to improve much on that.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the cancer saddle, making a morbidly twisted joke. But sometimes even a funny girl has to let her guard down.