Monday, July 12, 2010
I'm all clear!
I'm feeling great and barely remember I even had surgery. We had friends over this weekend to celebrate with a little bubbly, a great BBQ, and did a little retail therapy at Macy's where there was an amazing annual sale going on. Of course most of the things I bought weren't off the sale rack but I did balance them out a little with a few real bargains. Other friends came by with a freshly baked batch of local blueberry muffins and hugs.
Now all that is left for me is the 6 weeks of radiation and a five year regiment of tamoxifen. I've met with Dr. Gasson at St. Peter's just two days after my reexcision and am scheduled to be mapped on July 26th and start the preventative daily treatment on August 2nd.
I have been fortunate to be connected with several breast cancer survivors this week who also had their treatment in Albany - one who went to my very same radiology oncologist and loved him. They were glad to hear that I am keeping the power over what is done to me and researching options over and above what the MDs are telling me is best. One of the women found a place in Schenectady that does IGRT - a technique that preserves healthy surrounding organs more than the traditional method. I am looking into this and will let you know what I discover. For now though, I am happy with where I've landed and ready to complete the final treatment steps to keep cancer at bay.
I am also exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine to assist with whatever side effects might befall me. This I would have done anyway as I am nearing that age where you don't need Radiation or Tamoxifen to get hot flashes.
I've gotten lots of suggestions for books to read about breast cancer (Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book) and how others have dealt with it gracefully (Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place) which are now sitting by my bedside but the one I'm devouring right now is the old favorite The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup. There are so many wonderful tips in it for foods to eat/not eat, herbal options including Chinese medicine for easing the symptoms and maximizing the power of the rewiring that is happening inside our bodies at this time. We are all scared of this menopause thing but Dr. Northrup maintains that this is a healing time when women stop thinking about others and can finally focus on themselves ... in a real brain-to-organ physical way. Unresolved issues may manifest themselves in maladies (like breast cancer) but in the healing of the disease we have a chance to heal the underlying issue.
For me one issue that has resolved itself through this process is my unhealthy fear of hospitals. When I was 2 years old I was hit by a car when sledding at a relatives house and spent two weeks recovering in a hospital. My mother was in another hospital in another city having my sister Karen so the trauma of being in a hospital over night alone was compounded by not being able to see my mother during the day. The result was that walking into a hospital ever since has spiked my blood pressure and anxiety levels.
Now my sister is calling Brigham and Women's "my hospital" and my husband is telling me what a good patient I am. I don't need to hold anyone's hand or have an entourage go with me for my doctor's visits. I write down all of my questions ahead of time and get what I need to out of each visit. I find out just what I need to about procedures that will be done yet I know when I've had enough and don't need to hear the gory details. I even chose to have this last surgery done with a local anesthesia and would do it again.
I hope that my story can help others deal with their diagnoses. Each of us handles this stuff differently and there's no one way to do it. But knowing others have come out the other side in tact and that there are options can help ease the anxiety. We have the power to heal ourselves, I truly believe that and it's more than just the healing of the medical challenge. One of my wise friends on learning of my journey said "you know a new level of courage and joy these days, don't you?!" She is so right!! Menopause? Bring it on!