Quarterlies Are In!
I remember when I finally found the ONE cervical cancer blog on the Internet when I was diagnosed. It’d been five years since she was diagnosed, so her posts went from everyday updates to quarterly updates, to once every six months, to once a year. And I thought, “I wish I knew what her life was like in between those six-month checkups,” and wondered why she didn’t update more often. Now I kind of get it.
I think you reach a point where you just want to get on with your life - not let cancer define you. It was such an upheaval, this all-consuming six months of my life, but now I kinda want to move on. Be regular ol’ Mandy, just with a shorter cervix, no ovaries, and a less-than-stellar memory. Plus,this was my cancer blog, so do I keep it up and not talk about cancer? Make it my personal blog? Or do I let it languish between checkups and start something else, less cancer-related? I’m not sure.
At any rate, my last 3-month checkup was Wednesday. Just a pelvic exam, no pap smear. She’s going to start alternating those. Everything looked great! I put everything out on the table: my ladybizness dryness, recent wooziness/blurry vision/nausea. I don’t reeeeeally like having to explain to the new resident (we have a new one EVERY time, who goes over everything with us before we actually see the oncologist) things like WHY those symptoms can’t mean pregnancy. It’s not a big deal, but I find myself thinking ahead to what she’ll explain to the doc and tailoring my info thusly.
The wooziness/blurry vision/nausea concerned her, even though they scanned my head in June. She recommended I see a local doc right away to rule out a sinus infection, as well as an eye doctor just to rule that out. I made a local doc appointment the next day and it turned out I have the flu. I’m supposed to lay off my two staples, booze and sugar (I kid, I kid. I also consider coffee a staple).
For the first time in the year since treatment, I finally acquiesced to hormonal cream. She said it’ll help with the dryness and also possibly my moods. I’d been trying to stick with yoga / meditation for the latter, but I wasn’t doing that either, so I’ve been this shy of miserable for the last 3 months or so.
Nothing big, just a little… down. Off. A bit antisocial. Hermitty, even. I haven’t visited our good friends and their precious baby who was born in AUGUST. I didn’t even respond to any birthday well-wishes on my facebook wall! I’ve been making the weirdest, not-like-me mistakes at work. I can’t remember what toilet paper we like when I’m shopping and the indecision is almost crippling. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
Maybe this ridiculously expensive estrogen cream will help. We shall see! I’ll let you know in February (KIDDING).
Check & Check
Test came back all clear! One more clear followup in the books.
Physical therapy is going well; it took some trial and error, and a re-injuring of my adductor muscle (now known to be the culprit that sent me into that tailspin of recurrence fears) to understand that my tissues & muscles in my pelvic area need some very gentle reconditioning, as opposed to the deep stretching they learned to love after years and years of ballet and yoga.
It’s hard to refrain from something you’ve done practically your entire life, especially because the stretch itself doesn’t cause pain; it’s the aftermath. The recovery. Those muscles are just not ready. So we take it very slowly, I do some exercises on a foam roller every night, use strategically placed ice packs at night and refrain from going on hikes or runs or any other strenuous activity that might stretch that ligament that connects my inner thigh and pubic bone.
Again, baby steps. New normal. Ah well, if it means I’m not back in the chemo ward or radiation room, it’s cool.
Ever the Overachiever: Cancer Edition
Apparently it’s been three months since my last howyoudoin' with my gyn onc, so we packed up early Tuesday morning and headed to the city of fog in time to be 30 minutes late to my 10 AM appointment. Which worked out fine because she was running an hour behind. We both apologized for being late when she walked into the room.
We did the customary interview: any changes, any weird bleeding, how’s your appetite, how’s your sex life.
To which I answered yes, no, GREAT, also great.
The changes: I am MOODY. About once a month, but that timing may just be coincidental. The biggest culprit? We got a puppy right before the 4th of July. He is too adorable for words. He is, unabashedly, the answer to my nurturing needs that I swore I wouldn’t acknowledge because I am bigger and more logical than that, goddammit. But in reality for a very long time I’ve wanted a big, goofy boy puppy to love me from his tiniest days and grow to be a big, goofy boy dog who will sit on my feet and try to lay on my lap when he’s 80 pounds.
But he’s a puppy. A tiny (well, at first), teething, barking ball of black lab / German shorthair pointer that wakes us up early every morning and doesn’t stop until he goes to bed at night. Plus, work for both of us has been a teeny bit overwhelming. So we’re tired. Underfed. Overboozed. And that makes me cranky.
I’m supposed to bring these things up because they might be signs of hormonal fluctuations since I am, in fact, menopausal. But the more we talked it out, the more I realized that I was just tired, I’d given up on yoga or meditation and had basically bundled all physical exertion to running around with the puppy in the backyard (we can’t venture out yet until he finished up his vaccines), and that I probably just needed to make some routine adjustments.
"I feel like, maybe my anger is situational, and because I’m so tired, I can’t gain control like I used to," I said, trying not cry the way I do when I talk about FEELINGS.
My oncologist and her resident commended me on my insight. “I’d probably just say, ‘my husband’s being a jerk!’” the resident said with a laugh.
My onc brought it all into perspective.
"This has been a hell of a year for you," she said. "And really? You’ve handled it better than 99% of any of our other patients. So we can visit hormone replacement therapy if you want, but you might just want to keep watch on these feelings and keep them in a bit of perspective."
At least, I think that’s what she said. I sort of stopped listening after I heard that I’ve handled cancer better than 99% of her patients. The overachiever never stops. I’m even competitive with cancer.
Then we got the exam out of the way (shocker included, obvs), and she promised results within a week. She said based on the way things look there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. I feel like my old scar tissue might be gone, too, because I don’t feel it when she pokes around in there. (Also? EARMUFFS, MOMS AND GRANDMAS: Sex has been really, really amazing. It’s so much better when there’s no tumor in the way!)
Also, I mentioned the pain I still have in my pelvis area. Not as much as before, but almost like a bone pain. She said though this pain isn’t one of the side effects mentioned in any literature, she’s seen it enough in her patients to know that it’s common but might not go away. I found a Pilates studio where we live who specializes in physical therapy, so she referred me to them and I start twice a week on Thursday. I’m pretty excited about that, actually.
Afterward, we stopped in Berkeley for lunch and really had a fabulous time, eating incredible Mexican food, stopping in at the Pasta Shop, and capping it off at a cute little chocolate shop, where I had the best lavender hot chocolate I’ve ever had.
In a couple weeks, I’ll see my chemo dr. for my six-month followup with him, then I’m scheduled to head back to SF in November. Pretty soon, I feel like 2012 will just be a memory that sparks about a week before my checkups. Cancer isn’t really on my brain that much anymore; I’m too tired and overwhelmed with puppy hiccups. I’d say that’s a pretty cool place to be.
Cancer Update & Relay For Life
*Saw the doc. She didn’t see anything. Recommended a PET scan, just to be sure she didn’t miss anything (was confident it was NOTHING).
*Told myself the scan was just routine, an easy way to meet my deductible.
*Proceeded to freak out for weeks leading up to the scan that my cancer was recurring.
*Still had/have pain in hips and back, afraid to do anything physical, have not worked out since April 28 (unless you count walking the few blocks to the co-op for a loaf of bread and bottle of Le Freak from Green Flash).
*One-year Cancerversary passed almost two weeks ago. Was on the road for work. Decided not trip out too much about it.
*Scan was on Monday. Results came back yesterday. All clear. No cancer. Some radiation damage, which may be causing the pain. Will be referred to a physical therapist to figure out WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY PAIN.
*Walking the Survivors Lap at the Relay for Life this weekend with JLP’s work team. Kinda weirded out about it. Is it kind of pageant-like? Has anyone else done it? Details, please!
*Totes just glossed over the fact that my cancer is not recurring. MY CANCER IS NOT RECURRING! WOOOOOOOO!