I Had To Buy New Big Girl Panties….

inspirational quote

Life for the past week or so has been rough. I went on the fabulous, soul-sustaining trip to Florida with my son, and the after-glow lasted for several days once I got back. I felt like a new girl, like I wasn’t in the middle of a grueling 4-month course of chemo. Then the crash came…

Last Tuesday, I woke to the most overwhelming sense of sadness that I’ve had since finding out about the breast cancer back in March. It came out of nowhere and threw me for a real loop. It felt exactly like the neurotic, post-partum funk I always experienced when I brought a baby home from the hospital. I lost my bearings, and I couldn’t control the tears which flowed freely at the drop of a hat.

I chalked the emotional avalanche up to the complete dearth of estrogen in my body caused by the chemo drugs. Interestingly, I have to say that Adriamycin, aka “the red devil”, didn’t feel as inherently toxic to my body as Taxol has. Yes, it made me more physically ill with nausea, heartburn, etc, but I feel intuituvely that Taxol is leaving a more lasting, albeit silent, wake of destruction. For all it’s red rage, Adriamycin did not stop my menstrual cycle. First drop of Taxol = “instant menopause”.

I had an appointment with the oncologist at last Thursday’s treatment. He asked how things were going. I held it together for a few minutes as I described how horribly I was struggling with the emotional aspect of having no estrogen. I asked if he had read the research about using low-dose vaginal estrogen to help with menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients. He said that he had, but that he didn’t feel comfortable doing that because he wasn’t sure how much estrogen would be released systemically. Game over. I started sobbing.

He went on to tell me that I could get anti-depressants and lubricants, neither of which appeals to me as a long-term solution. I explained that I had been on anti-depressants for post-partum issues and that it took me 6 years and 25lbs to break out of that prison. I finally got to a happy, balanced place with the running and the healthy diet. Then this shit happened. I almost felt sorry for him because he is a genuinely caring person, and I know he felt bad that he couldn’t offer me any real hope. His advice was, “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just take things one day at a time.” Ok.

Today, I am in a little bit of a better place. Ever the problem-solver, I took the advice of my Gyspsy goddess acupuncturist and made an appointment with an integrative MD that she knows well and respects. She assured me that I would really like him and that he is very open-minded. I hope so…the initial consult is $465 for two hours. And of course, he is not covered by my insurance. I’m a little very leery of spending this much out of pocket since I know there will inevitably be follow-ups and supplements, but I really want to meet a doctor I can fall in love with and who gets me. I will run my hormone hell by him.

I have also been reading more inspirational things on the web lately. I went on the BreastCancer.Org discussion boards yesterday and read about ladies who are 5 and 10-year plus survivors of Stage 3 breast cancer. Some were even 25+ years out with things like triple-negative status and 20 positive nodes. I needed to see that. They are living normal lives and having fun, and they don’t spend every day anymore worrying.

I’m considering doing a 5k to celebrate the final round of Taxol next week. Friends are uging me on, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off two days after chemo. I’ll go with my gut when next Saturday comes. Whenever I get back to racing, I have designed the t-shirt I’ll wear:

5K CANCER SHIRT

5K CANCER SHIRT BACK

I’ll keep you posted…until then I’m pulling up my crisp new pair of big girl panties and reclaiming control.

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15 thoughts on “I Had To Buy New Big Girl Panties….

  1. Your feeling of sadness to hit you is perfectly understandable. I had my last chemo today, and still have mastectomy ahead, before going onto tamoxifen, but as I start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m finding I keep being hit with waves of sadness for all that has occurred, the losses and the trauma. I figure we should go gently on ourselves with these feelings, and yes, no doubt hormonal issues have much to do with it, and allow ourselves to feel sad, recognise and acknowledge that we are sad, but find comfort in the knowledge that this will pass. We have been traumatised.
    I am reading many great books during my period of treatment and recovery, but I can’t recommend highly enough the first two books that brought comfort, peace and words of wisdom as I started this road. The first is http://www.rachelremen.com/books/kitchen-table-wisdom/
    Rachel Naomi Remen’s is a great book to pick up and read short snippets and feel an ease and comfort.
    The second is http://mindovermedicinebook.com/read-the-book/ by Lissa Rankin. This has been so helpful in helping me understand the link between mind and health and things I can do to lessen over-medication.
    Thanks for the link to BreastCancer.Org….I’ll check it out.
    Love the t-shirt!

    • I think you’re absolutely right that it is like a delayed trauma. Last week, I was able to run through a cornfield where I used to train for the first time since March. When the tall green stalks came into view, it took all I had not to convulse into sobs. And you hit the nail on the head. I instantly felt the most profound sense of loss and grief. We’re so busy keeping track of all the appointments and procedures that we can keep the feelings at bay for a while.

      I will check out the books. Thanks.

      Congrats on the last chemo! No radiation for you?

      • Yes, I cried in the car coming home from chemo…not quite sure why. I think it was a mix of relief, trauma, the sadness that I needed chemo, the crap way it makes me feel and what it’s done to my body, but also thankfulness that chemo exists and thankfulness that this chapter is closed. Who knows why, I just cried!

        Ahh, the radiation question. I’ve had an excision, and a re-excision, sentinel lymph node biopsy and axial clearance of 16 lymph nodes prior to commencing chemo for stage 2B mixed lobular and ductal invasive carcinoma, only 1 LN positive, ER+/PR+, Her2-. The original plan was to follow chemo with 6 weeks breast radiotherapy. However the pathology report showed that I still have an extensive area of LCIS, which increases my risk by 30% (I think) of developing new tumours in either breast…I may or may not get more tumours 5,10,15 years down the track but would be monitored closely. Add to that a previous history of osteosarcoma at 15years, and there’s a very slight risk that I have a predisposition to developing cancer (I don’t want p53 or genetic testing to look more closely at this) which means a potentially higher risk of radiation induced sarcomas. And then there’ the fact I had anthracyline 33 years ago until my heart pattern changed, and even the slightest risk of further damage to my heart by radiation scatter is nerve-wracking. Also, I was involved in a serious lab accident when I lived in the US that affected my lungs and since I had pneumonia…my lungs are my achilles heel and the risk of lung scarring/damage from radiation scatter is also unwelcome. All these things together have led me to the decision that it is probably best to remove the breasts completely and then be done with it all. Big decision though and the type of surgery and reconstruction is still being discussed with surgeons. I’m hoping it will be late November when my oldest son finishes his final year exams at high school and I’ve recovered from chemo. Then on to tamoxifen. So still a bit of trauma ahead!
        Uncanny….I just received this link since I replied earlier to your post. I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but as a scientist I’ve found a lot of good rationale thinking in this book, that just makes good sense, although this write-up is sickeningly tabloid.
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2421772/The-cancer-patient-cured-broken-radiotherapy-machine-paralysed-man-walked-visiting-Lourdes-New-book-shows-incredible-influence-mind-body.html

  2. My sister is in her second round of chemo for ovarian cancer. My thoughts are with you–and I hope you kick every last bit of this straight in the ass . . . a crass way of saying, you go, girl.

  3. If you’d like, feel free to contact me for the name of my oncologist. He’s THE guy on this side of WA, and like yours, very caring. Your guy talking to him about vaginal use of estrogen while you’re still young (and how that protects from systemic absorption), might make him feel more comfortable. Or you’d find out, after they reviewed your cellular profile together, that you really aren’t a candidate for that. My email’s kaymidwife@hotmail.com. Bless you.

  4. By the way, My breast surgeon/integrative therapy doctor recommended I try a brain therapy for the anxiety, depression, insomnia and even my foot pain. It is called Nexalin Therapy. You can Google it for information. It has really worked for me. I had been taking Ativan as needed for the days of desperation and crying jags. I haven’t had one pill since I started the therapy. It too is not covered by insurance and is not cheap but for me it has been worth every penny! k

  5. I feel your pain. I am a widower and a Nexalin distributor for the east coast. Nexalin Therapy is still not available in all locations. I am not a physican and I will not recommend or disuade, but if your doctor has questions he can contact me at jbradusconicerge@aol.com.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Joel. I appreciate your offer. I’ve read some info on Nexalin. While it sounds interesting, it’s a lot of money for me right now. I’m not at a desperate point right now, so I’ll go the therapy route for a while.

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