Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Year Mark

I just passed the two year anniversary of the end of my treatment.

Last year, I knew the date was coming up weeks in advance. This year, I was surprised to see it when I reviewed my calendar that morning - it was nice to have it sneak up on me.

In general, I feel so much better than I did at this time last year! What a relief that is.

I still have issues with joint pain (I hope those will go away when I stop taking Tamoxifen in a couple more years), arthritis (my doc says he doesn't think chemo had anything to do with that - I'm dubious), my energy level, and hot flashes. But all of these things have shown improvement, and since I am feeling stronger and stronger, they are much easier to cope with.

I've made a number of changes since I was diagnosed.

In case you are curious, here they are:

No parabens - I threw out tons of cosmetics when I heard about the potential link between parabens and breast cancer. I don't give any gifts to my friends that include parabens either. Brands that I use now are Korres, 100% Pure, Tarte, Boscia, Bobbie Brown...I'm always looking for new things to try and more and more brands are going paraben free so it is getting easier to find things.

Supplements - I used to be anti vitamin, it was part of my reluctance to take pills of any kind. Now I carry around one of those plastic boxes with compartments for the days of the week. I take flax seed and fish oil (omega balance), Avosoy Complete from Dr. Theo for my knees (that stuff works wonders. I am mostly pain free if I take it, skip a couple of days and my knees start to ache) , D3, vitamin E, Cinnamon (to regulate blood sugar, long time use of glucosamine/ chondroiton can cause blood sugar spikes). It is a handful, but I'm happy with the results. Every few months, I do a review of what I'm taking and each supplement needs to justify staying on the list.

Pomegranate juice - I drink some kind of high antioxidant juice every day when I take my pills.

No plastics around food - I threw away all tupperware and other plastic food and drink storage and switched to glass and metal only. The last thing I want to change is not drinking from plastic water bottles. That has proven difficult. I tried a Sig bottle but I didn't like the taste of the water, so I wasn't drinking enough. I'm trying to find a good wide mouthed glass bottle that will still fit in the cup holder of my car.

My attitude - I still see a healer who helps me to deal with my issues, balance my energy, and stay aware of what is going on mentally and physically. I consider myself to be on a home study course to master the art of relaxation - seriously - I make relaxation a priority and I scan my body a few times a day and consciously remove any tension that I find. I consciously work on not allowing tension, worry, and resentment to be stored in my body - I had real problems with that before. I try to pace myself - I still have a long way to go on that - but I do see progress. I make more time and am willing to spend more money on things that I enjoy. I get a 90 minute massage every month. I've come to see worrying and fretting as an abuse of my imagination - and I spend more of my time thinking constructively and creatively instead of fretting about the future.

Fitness - this is still an issue since I have lost flexibility, strength and stamina. But, I do yoga, Pilates and dance a couple times a week. Now that I am feeling so much better, I expect to see great progress on this front this year.

Social - I always made my family a priority, but I cut my social life down to nothing for a few years. I was so focused on work and raising a family that I just didn't feel I had the time and energy for it. Now my friends and the time I spend with them are a priority again. I'd say I have some kind of social activity going on at least three nights a week now, and my weekends are packed with fun things to do - so much so that my chores are taking a back seat. I have become much more lenient on cutting corners for chores and sometimes just skipping them all together for one weekend.

Hot Flashes - I have been learning more about Kundalini - visualizing the snake coiling back down as the base of my spine and seeing a cool blue energy wash over me when I have a flash has helped considerably. I also use lavender and rose oils on my pillow at night. Doing these things has eliminated night sweats and reduced the frequency and severity of the flashes by more than 75%. I have not had a cold flash for months. Hot flashes and loss of sleep were exhausting me - getting relief from that has made a big difference in how I feel, my outlook and my energy level. Everything is just so much easier when you feel good and are rested! I know that sounds simple, but it can be a lot easier said than done.

Weight - yes, I have gained 20 pounds. Yes, I'm not happy about that. But I've stopped fussing about it, decided it is a work in progress, and given myself the freedom to work on it without getting all tied up in knots about it. Tamoxifen causes weight gain because it is a steroid, but I think it also changes your appetite significantly. I don't just eat larger quantities than I used to, I want different things. I am more attracted to richer foods than I used to be. Well, whatever! I deal with that by allowing myself to have a few bites of something rich when I want it, and just trying to eat moderately, and stop before I am full. Balance, balance, balance! LOL The real change is that I'm more relaxed about the weight gain, I can accept my new figure and I'm OK if it takes me some time to get back to where I was. How I feel is much more important to me than my dress size. That is a big change for me.

It feels good to have some things that I do to work on improving my health and my enjoyment of life.

It feels good to be here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Long Time No See

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted.

So much going on!

I went through a very tough time over Christmas vacation. I had terrible pain in my left ankle, knee and hip. I could not walk without a limp, I could not find a comfortable position.

I saw new knee doc. Like him. Got an MRI. Diagnosis was a real bummer. I have moderate to severe arthritis in my left knee, moderate in my right. The medical community says lose weight (I basically felt horrified when I heard that - way to kick me when I'm down!), don't ever climb stairs again, try artificial lubricant shots, consider surgery. I was very sad about it for a day or two. Then I picked myself back up and did some research. I found a book called the Arthritis Cure, it gives a 9 step program to try. I bought vitamins from the author's site, started taking them and started to feel better after about two weeks. I am not in pain all the time any more. Yes, it is true, I still can't easily climb steps - but I am already light years better than I was less than a month ago. And,being the stubborn thing that I am, I fully expect to be vaulting up stairs as much as I like sometime soon.

I also learned that heat works better on my knees than cold. So, if they bother me after dancing, I put a warmie (rice bag that you warm in the microwave - you can get them at Origins) on them and I like that a ton better than ice.

I am going through massive changes. Personally, I feel that going through cancer was more than enough change, but apparently, life is not asking for my opinion on this one. A close friend that I work with is leaving to move out of the country at the end of February. My niece quit her job and decided to move away - and I don't have time to adjust to the shock of it because she is leaving with about a week's notice.

We impulsively decided to have the wood floors redone in our house. They cover close to 50% of the bottom floor. We got an estimate that was so good that we just decided to do it. What we didn't know was what it would be like to live with the house cut in half (they had to do half at a time since all of the doors into the house are on hard wood) you know, little things like finding out that you have to walk out the front door, then all the way around the house in sub zero temperatures since your coat is on the other side of the house. Realizing that the pet fish is stranded on the other side of the house - behind plastic sheeting that I had to tear into to get to him. Finding out just how noisy it is to have someone laying down new floor and sanding the existing. Finding out how incredibly awful polyeurethane smells. We came home every day - sometimes very late, tried to breathe, and if we couldn't - we headed out for a motel. So disruptive! We would flee to the hotel with no luggage, sleep just a few hours, get up at 5, head out into the dark and miserable cold, then come back home to shower and get the kids ready for car pool. I don't know if I can adequately describe how unsettling it is to not know where you are going to sleep every night. To have the kids need to do their homework on the open computers in the motel lobby. To eat out every meal for days because you cannot get into your own fridge and kitchen.

But that is all over now. The floor is in. Looks great. I am sleeping in my own bed and sighing deeply as I stand at my kitchen sink - just because I can.

My elder son is doing well too. He has applied to four colleges now. Two have accepted him so far, we are waiting to hear from the other two. He has filled out scholarship packet after scholarship packet. We are waiting to hear on that too. I have a FAFSA workshop to attend Sunday that is supposed to teach me how to do the whole thing. I will be so relieved when that is done.

Work is off the charts. I am working long, long hours. Working through vacation, working late nights, working on the weekend. I could complain - oh yes, I sure could, but I really see it as the world trying to teach me that I need to take better control over my own schedule and my own priorities, so I am working on it.

So what am I doing for fun? Well, not much actually. I keep missing Pilates classes, Jamz and Contra dances. That makes me very unhappy. I gave my husband a DVD series that we are really enjoying - Reaper. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith. I didn't watch it when it was on TV, but we became addicted to the DVD's. That was really fun. We would all huddle together every night to snuggle up and watch and episode or two. A nice break.

For Christmas, my husband bought me a ring. I wear it often and the was such an amazing surprise. I also got a ton of new CD's. I have a CD changer in my car, so I got it loaded up with all new music - that's nice for my ridiculous daily commute.

I have not seen my friend who has brain cancer in three weeks. God, that makes me sad. We saw the whole family at Christmas time and spent a great day with them, then I have not taken a second out for them since! That sucks. I'm ashamed. How could I let three weeks slip by like that? I don't care how busy I am - I should make time for them no matter what.

So. Everyone I know says they don't know how I do all the stuff that I do. I agree with them. My project now is to find a way somehow - I don't have any idea how yet - to slow down.Take more time for myself.

Oh yeah, two more fun things. I took the fam to see a dinner theatre production called "Polynesian Fire" - it was great! Just the right mix of hokey and fab at the same time. Girls who look like regular people doing the hula, spinning double ended torches on fire, a buffet that was hilarious because everything had to have a tropical name - Diamondhead Ham, King Kamehameha pork, I'm sorry, but that's funny!! Dragging people from the audience up to the stage and making them dance - we all had a great time. The other fun thing is my DS. I've given up on reading - I just don't have enough time right now, but I can fit in a quick game of Zenses or Meteos.



I realize that reading used to be one of the top five things in my life and a great source of pleasure and learning for me. I used to shun TV. I refused to have on in my bedroom for years, and even put ours in a storage locker for a couple of years once. I used to think video games were for kids, or idiots, or maybe for kids that were idiots. Well, I sure have changed my tune, haven't I? I have no idea if that is a good thing or a bad thing, I just know that that's what I'm up to for now.