A Breast Cancer Patient's Account of Living with Cancer
Patricia Yuhas Barner
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
Copyright © 1999, Patricia Yuhas Barner
My journey began with my annual mammogram on July 14, 1998. The results were conveyed to my surgeon and physician within a week, and I met with my surgeon on July 21, 1998 to discuss the masses present in both my left and right breasts. An ultrasound test was performed during this visit, and showed my left breast mass as being O.K. but my right breast as suspicious. The surgeon performed a needle core biopsy that day on the right breast. I was told he would rush the lab work and have results to me by July 24, 1998. We scheduled a lumpectomy, just in case. That part didn't cause any concern, since I'd already had 3 benign lumps removed from my left breast over the past decade. However, the word "rush" should have alerted me to the forthcoming news.
True to his word, my surgeon has his report back on the day I called. When I asked him for the results, he said, "It's bad. It's cancer". I asked how bad and he said "Pretty bad." I later found out that meant Level II breast cancer had invaded my body! Living wills and funeral arrangements entered my mind. Immediately, praying became as natural as breathing.
The surgeon wanted to schedule surgery as quickly as possible, and arranged for a thorough consultation with his associate, regarding the injection of radioactive material at the tumor site. I immediately turned to my husband to share the diagnosis, and put my head down in my hands to contemplate the shocking news I had just heard on the phone. Since both my parents had died from cancer, I always felt the clock was ticking away to the moment when it was my turn...and that time was now here!
My mother-in-law was due to arrive at our home for a 10-day visit, the very same day I got the diagnosis. How does a person given this type of news, get it together and keep it together for 10 days. This was indeed stressful and, at that time, I didn't want to cope with any negativity or gloom and doom. We decided not to tell her about the biopsy results during the visit, and to keep our phone conversations with doctors and hospitals as private as possible. I told only a few close friends what was going on, and had to keep these discussions private also. (These and future discussions were literally my "life line" and were always upbeat.) I clearly recollect sitting there at times during her visit, and thinking; "Will I be here next year for her annual visit?" Surgery was scheduled for August 5, 1998, the day after her departure, and that was on my mind all the time! Additionally, our daughter was admitted for emergency surgery 10 days after delivering another grandson, our nephew had an emergency appendectomy, and my husband and I were asked to be pall bearers at the funeral of my brother's mother-in-law. If it wouldn't be for bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all. If there is a master plan for each of us, I wanted to trade mine in for a better one!
Surgery day arrived quickly. I had to report to Nuclear Medicine first to have the radioactive material injected into the tumor and then to get a Xray to track the position of the tumor and for node mapping. After a couple of hours, I was wheeled into the operating room. Both surgeons were present and testing the Geiger counter before I was given anesthesia. I was nervous and making such lame jokes, that the surgeon asked if I had been already sedated. It was strange to hear the loud clicking of the Geiger counter as I was going under. Next thing I remember is waking up as I was being wheeled through the doorway of my room. My husband was there to tell me everything went well. I was given the option of staying overnight, which I gladly took. I was in not completely ambulatory, and the discomfort from the axillary node dissection and drainage tube was not something I wanted to deal with at home. Just getting to the bathroom with the IV stand and drainage pouch required assistance. The stinging armpit numbness was another matter that curtailed my mobility.
My next scheduled surgeon visit was August 12, 1998. However, I found myself with a half grapefruit size lump ballooning under my right arm, and needed a painless needle aspiration a couple of times before that time. (The lymph gland fluids continue to pool, until your system learns to disperse them.) My August 12th visit brought good news and bad. The axillary dissection showed that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes...good. The tumor, however, was larger than anticipated, and they were unable to remove a clean margin (cancer free tissue) with it...bad. Now my options were a re-excision of the tumor site to obtain a clean margin, or remove the right breast with a mastectomy. (Percentages for long term survival were exactly the same for both procedures.) If they were able to get a clean margin next time, we would follow up with chemotherapy and radiation. If not, we would definitely have to do the mastectomy followed with chemotherapy. After many sleepless nights and heart to heart discussions with my very supportive husband about prosthesis devices and reconstruction, we scheduled re-excision for August 24, 1998. (I also had my annual Pap test done on August 20, 1998 and was glad to hear that part of my body was fine).
This time surgery was done on an outpatient basis and was not nearly as bad as the first time. My last needle aspiration was done during surgery. I was home that afternoon, after stopping to shop for a sports bra. I experienced very little discomfort from this surgery and resumed my regular routine immediately. Because of the "happy face smile" incision, my only deformity was a right nipple that was now heading south.
September 1, 1998 was my next visit to the surgeon. These waiting periods for good news or bad news were beginning to feel like I was on a roller coaster ride. He entered the examining room, came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek and a big hug, and whispered "You're fine!!!!" I thanked him profusely, but he said he had nothing to do with getting clean margins...God did and we thanked him. Now, where do I go from here?
We scheduled a visit with the radiologist and oncologist. I was anxious to move onto the next step of treatment. My visit on September 9th with my radiologist was pleasant and informative. (Everyone I had met with each step in treatment was both positive and supportive.) However, I was told they couldn't begin radiation, until my oncologist made a decision on and concluded chemotherapy sessions. I was very upset that I had to wait for my oncology visit, which was scheduled on my birthday, September 23rd. I deliberately chose to think of this as a birthday gift to myself...chemo was going to give me many more future birthdays!
When I allowed myself to think about this appointment, I thought of wigs and nausea. I began collecting information from OncoLink and the ACS. My small file folder became a thick binder bursting will the new information that I was cataloging. I had casual conversations with breast cancer survivors (we identify each other by our pink ribbon pins). My head was full of opinions and options that everyone had to offer. Finally, my appointment day arrived and, once again, everyone was positive and supportive. I was scheduled to begin CMF chemotherapy on September 28th, and continue with 1 session every 3 weeks for 6 months. A bone scan was scheduled for September 30th also. Radiation would follow much later on.
The weekend before, I lived it up by attending several social functions. I enjoyed drinking and eating my favorites, thinking I would be giving this up during chemotherapy. I was anticipating the nausea and loss of appetite usually accompanying chemotherapy. I reported at 11:00 on the 28th. First, my vitals were taken and blood was drawn for testing before we were escorted to the chemo area. My husband and I walked into a very airy and cheerfully decorated room, and I was seated in a comfortable recliner. A needle was inserted in my left hand for the IV drip. They began my therapy with a shot of an anti-nausea drug, which ironically caused me to feel nauseated and very hot (my vaginal area, in particular, because of the concentration of surface blood vessels). This past in about a minute or two, and then we began the consecutive drips for the 3 other drugs. This was a piece of cake! I was able to watch T.V., sip ginger ale and read my "Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul" book. My favorite quote from it is "I'm not dying from cancer, but living with cancer." My husband sat in a chair nearby and worked on his laptop computer, while we conversed. I was in and out in about 1 1/2 hours. I had insomnia that first night, but experienced no nausea in the weeks between my next visit on October 19th. That visit was a pleasant surprise, because they administered the anti-nausea drug through an IV and I didn't feel any Hot Spots at all. The minor fatigue and major heat flashes during the day, which is to be expected, was a small inconvenience. I slept an average of 10 hours a night and napped for 1 hour some mid afternoons. Because I chose 6 month, instead of 3-month therapy, my drug doses were significantly lower. As a result, I was told I shouldn't have to deal with balding or thinning. So far, this seemed to be accurate information. My business and social schedules didn't suffer because of chemo. I trusted God to answer my prayers (and those of my friends and family) for good health and peace of mind! I'm still waiting on the results from my bone scan at my next chemo session on November 9th, and, as usual, anticipating good news/bad news.
I spoke with my mother-in-law this evening. She asked for the umpteenth time if my husband and I were coming to Florida for the Christmas holidays. Since all my news has been good to this point, I decided to explain why we couldn't commit to a visit at Christmas. I told her I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July, but preferred to wait until I had good news to give her. I explained that I was doing very well and, we promised a long weekend visit when my course of treatments is complete. This seemed to be the best compromise, and has placated her for now.
Psychologically, I'm finding that each day is great. I more aware of the little things that make each day special. Close friends have said to me that they are not surprised by my can do attitude and courage, and that they always admired that part of my personality...wow! Spending time with family and friends is a precious commodity we don't truly appreciate. Hugs and heart to heart discussions really make my day! I'm less critical of myself and others, and now much more open to meeting new people and forgetting about what they think of me. This new approach has produced some truly memorable encounters. I avoid stress as much as possible, and allow time for pampering myself. I like how all this makes me feel, and marvel at how simple things can bring such pleasure! I'm living in the moment and not procrastinating with decision making...like buying a new car the same night I test drove it! I allow myself to be selfish some times...like saying no when I'm fatigued, to people or tasks that can wait. When I have energy, I share it with the people I enjoy by doing things I like. Putting myself first has had a very positive effect on my outlook!
Physically, I have more energy on most days, than I've had in several years. The days I cope with fatigue are fewer. Close friends observe that I look better now than I did before my diagnosis and treatments. I kid them by telling them they too can look and feel better with only a couple of surgeries and chemo treatments! It's a small price to pay for feeling this good.
November 9th, I had my third chemo treatment and met with my oncologist. She said my bone scan was clear and my platelet and white blood cell counts are fine. Her stethoscope indicated my lungs are clear. She also commented on how well I looked and that I seemed to be in good spirits. I had no nausea or Hot Spots with this CMF treatment, and only needed a warmed blanket towards the end of my treatment (because of a drafty vent). This is like visiting a day spa...a private TV, a good book to read in between shows, iced ginger ale, and a warm blanket. Plus a very attentive hospital staff available at the press of a button. The only discomfort is that this time and last, it took two tries to find a vein for my IV needle...it hurts, but I can live with that. I'm ready for my next appointment on November 30th, which will be my 4th in a course of 8 chemo treatments. I'm amazed that almost halfway through with chemotherapy!
My next door neighbor has just discovered a lump in her breast and is scheduled for biopsy work November 16th. I delivered some literature on surgeries to her and explained if she gave birth to 3 girls, this will be a piece of cake. I offered transportation if she needs it and gave her a hug and the promise of my prayers for her. She will let me know when her results come back and whether she needs a referral to an excellent local surgeon. Informal networking seems, for me, to be the best support system.
I've sent monthly breast check reminder stickers along with a brief not to several of my close friends. I'm happy to say that most were pleased when they received the, and touched by my concern and caring. They've encouraged me to submit the note idea to ACS.
Things have going so well for me that my husband and I decided to celebrate with dinner and a few alcoholic drinks. The drinks were a BIG MISTAKE! Now I know first hand whey they don't recommend drinking alcohol during chemo treatments. The car ride home was a dizzy experience. When I arrive home, I immediately "tossed my cookies". So this is what it's like to live life on the edge...the edge of the toilet bowl! After my head stopped spinning and my foot flat on the floor steadied the room, I fell into a deep sleep. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson, and will not be repeating that behavior again.
I spoke with my surgeon on November 17th about shooting pains in both breasts. He said the needle aspiration showed no cancer in the left breast mass. We scheduled a meeting on the 24th for re-examination and further evaluation, just to be sure..I love him for his compassionate and caring attitude. Prior to this meeting, I had examined each breast, but couldn't find anything lumpy to which to attribute the pains. After reading for an hour in the waiting room, I was escorted to the examination room and given my paper bed jacket. He arrived within moments and explained some woman came in for a routine visit and had spent an hour talking about her breasts...been there, done that! He scrutinized each breast carefully, and said there was nothing to cause any alarm. He did, however, suggest removing a dot-sized mole on my right breast when I conclude chemo and before beginning radiation treatments. We talked further about my chemo and how I have had virtually no ill effects to date. I have a January appointment set up, and he may handle the mole removal during that visit. I had a friend at the hospital I wanted to visit after I left his office, and asked him to supply me with a sterile mask as a joke. He was very accommodating and gave me surgical gauze and tape to wear in her room. He parted company with a handshake, a hug and a kiss on the cheek and the comment "Bet I'm your only doctor who kisses you good-bye!" I said he was right and that Leslie, my female oncologist, wouldn't dare.
My visit with my friend Kelly was short. She was extremely tired and needed her rest. Her doctors are trying medications first before turning to surgery. She's diabetic and found out if she had continued with the previous doctors, she would have gone into renal failure. Thank God her mother suggested seeing some else at this point in treatment. Kelly wasn't really happy with her former doctor's treatments and was than willing to try someone else.
The day before Thanksgiving I stopped in to drop off pie recipes for my husband's cousin and his wife. I had a particularly hectic day, deadlines and traffic in particular, and arrived at their house very frazzled. She suggested a drink, but I declined. I had my pink ribbon shirt on and mentioned that with chemo it wouldn't be a good idea. I explained that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had clean nymph nodes and clean margins at the tumor site. The chemo was just an extra measure towards preventive medicine. She was quite upset with the news and got misty eyed. Since her father died about a year ago from cancer, she's been very vulnerable. I gave her a hug and told her I was doing great with my treatments and hoping for the best. I guess there's really no easy way to deliver this type of news to family and friends!
Today, November 30th was my 4th chemo treatment...4 more to go! I met with my oncologist, and once again my blood work looked good, my lungs were clear, my platelets were fine. Chemo went very well with only 1 needle prick to insert the IV line...thank God for small favors. I read a novel, watched TV and conversed with my nurse, Nancy, about Christmas decorations. She and her son do the entire outside of their house (peaks included) all by themselves. She said she's a little afraid of heights, but her son holds the ladder while she scales the rooftop. Last year, lights went out over a peaked area, so she opened her bedroom window, used a clothesline pole to lift the string of lights off the hooks and droop them below her window, while she removed and tested each bulb. Pretty ingenious way of avoiding the rooftop! I not only get treated very well at the cancer center, but get pretty nifty household tips too. As usual, I have insomnia tonight, and I'm writing this entry at 1:30 a.m.
After my chemo was done, I went to visit my friend who's still in the hospital. She had surgery this weekend for bowel obstructions, and is hoping this will take care of the problem. She hasn't had solid food in two weeks, and has been on IV supplements during that time. He mother (a former nurse) has been at her bedside day and night. Her biggest problem is that she pulled some back muscles and the pain is excruciating. She can't start therapy for that until the bowel surgery has healed. She was crying because she was complaining and depressed, and I had just come from chemo with no complaints. I said if it would make her feel good, I would be back next day with my hair uncombed, no makeup and the schlepiest outfit I could dig up...and lots of complaints! That seemed to do be an acceptable solution to her post surgery blues. Her mother explained they had discovered gangrene during surgery, and that her recovery would be arduous.
I also visited another friend, Jeanne, who just had a hysterectomy. She was feeling extremely bloated, because they did laproscopic surgery. Her biggest complaint was her extended stomach. I didn't stay too long, but promised to have lunch with her during her month's recuperative time. I've been helping my brother and nephews redecorate their home. Since their live-in grandmother died, the house has been looking shabby and in need of sprucing up. Interior decorating is my hobby, and my services were required and appreciated. I'm providing the direction and their doing the renovation work. This is taking a good deal of my time and energy, so I'm trying to pace myself. I've also begun Christmas shopping for the family and decorating the house for the holidays. My afternoon naps have become an essential part of my days now.
My neighbor got the news that her breast lump was benign. Needless to say, she was ecstatic and will continue to watch any future developments very closely.
I've developed a pretty terrible sore throat in the days following the last chemo. Today, I decided to take it easy and stayed in bed to almost 11:00 a.m. to rest my body. I did manage to get up and take a shower and read the newspaper by noon. It's definitely going to be a pamper day for me!
I spoke with my oncologist about the coughing and sore throat today. She suggested getting in touch my primary physician, if things didn't improve by the weekend. I visited my MD on Saturday and he prescribed an antibiotic. I'm to continue taking these for a week and if there's no improvement, we'll explore other options. The coughing spasms are more frequent and I'm hoping this prescription alleviates these spells quickly.
I suspect all the holiday parties we've been attending are contributing to my long recuperation period from this flu/cold. Seems everyone is coughing or sneezing at these public gatherings, which means I'm constantly exposed to unrelenting germs. I may have to start wearing a surgical mask out in public, or just stop attending the parties for awhile.
December 21st was to be my 5th chemo treatment. Unfortunately, my blood work showed my white cell count was at 900. Dr. Kormier didn't want to proceed with my CMF treatment until I reached 1200. We've rescheduled chemo for December 28th. I left small Christmas presents for several of her staff members. In the meantime, I've contacted my MD to explain what's going on, and ask him to prescribe a stronger antibiotic. He called in another prescription and I had my Cough syrup prescription refilled too. Hopefully, the combination of new antibiotic and cough syrup will help elevate my white cell count for the 28th.
I'm still coughing but feeling better, and the family visited us on Christmas Eve. The house was filled with our daughters, sons-in-laws, grandchildren, my brother and nephews. I was looking forward to working in the kitchen with our daughters. They've suggested that I just make a fruit and cheese tray, and they would handle everything else. This game plan was o.k. with me, since I've been really fatigued by holiday preparations and work. I did deviate from their plan somewhat by baking a few desserts. Everything worked out perfectly, including a long distance call to my mother-in-law while she was opening our collective Christmas gift to her and her companion...a full set of wheeled luggage. They're in their 70's, travel often and, loved our gift!
Thankfully, I had only one exchange to handle after all the gifts were given...my nephew needed a much larger Nautica sweatshirt (since teenagers are wearing their clothes very baggy these days). We will be leaving the decorations up for a few weeks, Christmas parties are done, and now I can relax completely and enjoy the upcoming New Year's Eve celebration at a friend's house...only seven of us. I'm ordering a fruit and cheese tray and baking a white chocolate cheesecake to take along. We're keeping the menu simple, so that we all can actually relax and kick back all evening!
Today the 28th was my rescheduled chemo day. I had my blood work done and vitals taken when I arrived, as usual. The good news was that my white cell count came up and, I had my 5th chemo treatment...hooray! The nurses had one chair available when I arrived and we were able to insert my IV line immediately, after suggesting I find a vein on my own and begin. They liked the "Hope for the Cure" shirts I gave them for Christmas. I must get a gift to Paula also, since she wasn't there the day I delivered presents. Another "spa" session has put me in good spirits (I watched the Rosie O'Donnell's show). I felt good after my CMF treatment, and went to do some errands afterwards. I came home just in time for my hour long afternoon nap. And yes, I'm placing my needs first and foremost above all else!
I spoke with Kelly to check up on her recuperation from bowel surgery. She's feeling much better, and still has the visiting nurse in daily to change dressings and irrigate her wound. Hopefully, I may be able to see her tomorrow for a short visit and gift exchange. Aren't we are a pair!
The day after chemo, I managed to sprain my ankle while watering my poinsettias. When I fell, I heard two loud pops and then screamed for my husband. We telephoned the doctor immediately, and he said to come right over to the office. He examined me and then sent me to get Xrays done. The results showed no bone splinters, only a bad sprain. I was given an inflatable cast and ordered to stay put and use either crutches or a cane.
We had planned to spend New Year's Eve with two other couples at one of their homes. This worked out perfectly, since I wasn't able to kick up my heels and ring in the new year. I spent the evening sitting on the couch and being waited on hand and foot...no pun intended. What a terrific way to start the New Year!
We also had committed to attend a Surprise 50th Birthday party for a close friend that weekend. I debated about going and, in the end, went anyway. We had a terrific time, meeting some new people and enjoying the company of old friends. I also came away with something I could have done without.
The following Monday, I began throwing up, had diarrhea and acute pain in my right side. I phoned the doctor Tuesday morning after a sleepless night and, made appointment that same morning. His examine indicated a bad intestinal flu that had hit our area over the holidays. I was prescribed medication for the cramping (side pain) and told to take Imodium for the rest. If there's no improvement by Thursday, I'll have to return to him for further tests. I now understand why they say to avoid public places during chemo...your immune system becomes a welcome mat for every germ or virus out there! I cancelled babysitting for our grandkids this week, as a precautionary measure.
My sprain is mending slowly and my flu bug has moved out. I had an appointment with my surgeon on January 12th. My 6 month breast examination showed no problems and, I will return for mole removal between the conclusion of my chemo and commencement of my radiation treatments.
I spoke with Kelly about having lunch next week. We both are leary about eating in a public restaurant, but each of us has a case of cabin fever. We decided to go early and avoid the crowds that eat during peak times. I'm really looking forward to this get together, as I know she is.
I attended a class at Gateway Computers on January 13th. I hope everyone in that classroom was healthy, so I'm fit for my next chemo treatment on January 18th. I'm trying to avoid any public contact through this weekend.
Chemo treatment on January 18th went extremely well. Blood work was fine and finding a vein for the IV was easy. I had my usual insomnia that evening but other than that, no side effects. I've noticed more and more strands of hair on the bathroom floor over the past several weeks. Fortunately, my hair was very thick to start with and the loss isn't noticeable yet. Only two more chemo treatments to go!
Kelly and I finally had lunch together at Chi Chi's. We were both pleased there was a light lunch crowd. What a pleasure it was to be eating in a public place and enjoying the friendship of a very good friend. She still has the visiting nurse coming daily to tend to her incision. She's back working full time and feeling exhausted by the end of the day. I'm still hobbling around with an elastic ankle brace and cane for support. Once again, we made a fine pair!
I've signed up for an adult evening course in Interior Decorating at the local high school. It runs for 10 weeks beginning February 2nd on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. I'm so excited about this enrollmentmeeting some new people and processing new ideas sounds like fun to me. I babysat for Andrew and Ryan on the January 21st, and was totally exhausted by the end of the day. We all took naps in the afternoon, but otherwise, we had a full day of activities. I really enjoy spending time with the grandkids, and can always rest up after they leave.
We had dinner with my husband's boss and wife on the January 23rd at their home. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs were on the menu, along with my white chocolate cheese pie dessert. We had a wonderful evening but Chuck was up all night with stomach flu. We had to cancel a brunch engagement and I called our doctor Sunday morning to get two prescriptions filled. Chuck's going to be out of town on business for the next 3 days. I'm hoping I don't have another bout of the flu on my horizon, and that we can get him cured quickly! I spent the day installing our new Gateway computer and downloading files for work, while Chuck remained bedridden. I am sure the bedrest and drugs will do the trick.
I have lunch planned with my nephew Stefan and dinner with my friend Arleen on the January 25th, while Chuck is out of town. I'm pleased they're both available to spend time with me. I value both these relationships and appreciate that they are there for me right now. I was really depressed on the 22nd and actually had a crying jag. I think all this cancer stuff finally hit me and, my positive attitude went right out the window! When I'm feeling physically fine, it doesn't enter my mind. When I'm stressed and run down, then I seem to focus on the negative aspects.
Chuck never made it out of town, due to an intestinal virus. However, I did manage to have any enjoyable lunch with Stefan and dinner with Arleen. Both of them are interested in what's going on with my cancer treatments, and once that's out of the way, we're on to discussing what's going on in their lives.
I had my 7th chemo treatment today. All went well and the staff and I are looking forward to my last chemo treatment on March 1st. I may even bring along a cake to celebrate!
I visited my radiologist of February 9th for follow up. It looks like it's a go ahead and we'll begin radiation treatments on April 12th. I'm elated that I'll have some time away from hospital visits. Especially, since I'll have 34 consecutive treatments of radiation.
Our 5th grandchild, Peyton Alexa Breinich, was born on February 10th. She weighed 7lbs. 14 oz. and was 21 inches long. We took pictures and videos at the hospitalno matter how hard I try, I can't stay away from hospitals!
I spoke with Kelly and she's doing much better. She has a needle biopsy scheduled within the month, but can handle anything now. We'll try to schedule a "keep our sanity" lunch next week.
My sprained ankle is fine and I have almost complete mobility back. I did manage to trip on the edge of some carpeting in the laundry area today. This time, it was my nose and chin that got the brunt of itbruises and some bleeding. A cold compress and Polysporin took care of everything. I'm like an accident waiting to happen! My day was brightened by a beautiful floral delivery for Valentines Day from my husbandwhat a sweetie!
We had a "Let's All Celebrate Chemo Number 8" party with the 6 pack (our friends from the T-Bird Club). This was the weekend immediately before my last treatment. and we really enjoyed ourselves. We rented videos, I made a pot of six bean chili, Jeanne brought salad fixin's and Sandy made her famous Grasshopper pie. The guys were in charge of the bar refreshments. All in all, it was a relaxing and fun evening!
My last chemo was March 1st, as scheduled, and everything went well. I've grown attached to the caring nurses in chemotherapy, but must admit, I'm ready for a break.
I have had celebratory meals with Alice, her daughter and mother, and also with Kelly. These friends have decided to help me celebrate each passing of treatment. The first one being completion of 8 chemo treatments. I also met my friend , Molly for lunch in York, PA for a leisurely Saturday luncheon. When Chuck and I went to Florida to visit my mother-in-law from March 11th through the 15th, Barb drove up from N. Lauderdale and spent the night with us. All of these people are the most terrific support network anyone could hope for, much less have. Thank God for them and Chuck!
I did manage to get pneumonia when I came back from Florida. I had a chest Xray and was put on antibiotics and cough medicine, as well as an inhaler. It seems I just get over one thing, and manage to pick up something else. I've forgotten what it's like to be completely well!
Also, I had in house surgery, on March 23rd, to remove two suspicious moles. I should have the pathology report by the 26th. My surgeon just wants to be sure, but doesn't suspect that these will be malignant.
The pneumonia seems to have cleared up but I still have the coughing from time to time. I was babysitting our two grandsons and the littlest one had an ear infection and coughing spells. I hope we didn't pass back each others germs. For myself, I wonder what it's like to feel completely healthy. It's been a long time since I've had that luxury. It's the repetitive little illnesses that wear me out, not the cancer.
Today, April 12th, was my dress rehearsal for radiation. The room itself, looked like a set for Star Trek, ominous looking machines, laser beams, clicking and humming. The tattooing was not painful, just like a pinprick in several locations around my right breast. April 14th will my first actual radiation treatmenthope all goes well.
I went to have my stitches removed on April 20th. Seems both moles were benign and I shouldn't have any further problems. Another sigh of relief! I stopped by to visit the nurses in chemo, and had a nice welcome from all of them. I promised I would do this whenever I was in the area, and as time allowed.
April 14th through June 1st, I was in radiation treatment every weekday at 12:30 p.m. As with the chemo nurses, this staff was equally attentive and friendly. Other than extreme fatigue, weight gain, and some tanning under my arm, there were no significant side effects. I must say, however, that the 34 consecutive treatments did drain me mentally. I met an old friend of my mother's and her daughter during treatments. Her daughter was being treated for uterine cancer, and was just beginning as I was concluding. It was nice to see them after so many decades.
June is going to be a doctor free month for me. I have nothing planned other than some well deserved R & R, gardening and working at home. The fatigue still remains, so I nap each afternoon. Four days after concluding my last treatment, I attended our local Relay for Life, a team event to raise funds to fight cancer. My husband and I did one lap around the track and I did one with other cancer survivors. It was a very emotional evening, especially during the luminary lighting. Family and friends gathered near their designated luminaries for loved ones. Next year, Lord willing, I would like to join a team for the complete 24-hour relay.
In July I had follow up appointments with my oncologist and radiologist and both reports were good. My final appointment, in August, with my surgeon was good, as well. I must wait until 6 months after radiation to have another mammogram. Until that time, I will assume I am a survivor.
I have decided to live my life day to day. This August, I met with an old friend for an overnight stay at a resort and spa. We treated ourselves to dinner at a gourmet restaurant and therapeutic massages the next day. The rest of the day, we spent exploring the Farmers Market. The following week, I spent a day at the beach with another old friend, just relaxing and enjoying the ocean breeze. We had a delicious seafood dinner on a deck overlooking the ocean and beach. I hope to spend more days like these with my family and friends.
It's been a year now since all this began. I've made many discoveries along the way, some made me sad, and some made me glad! I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone, but it has helped me grow in many ways. I'll be celebrating another birthday on September 23rd, thanks to the special care I received from my health care providers, family and friends. I'm looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays!