Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling Hopeful! With a Few Minor Hitches.

Hello blog followers! Let me begin by showing my HAIR! It's growing pretty fast!
Hair. Wonderful Hair!

Today is President's Day Holiday. I cherished sleeping in and not having to make my radiation appointment at 11:15 am. That time will be ingrained in my memory forever. Good news though! I only have SIX radiotherapy treatments left. I will be done next Tuesday, February 28th. Yea! I'm surprised at how well my skin is tolerating it and I've lucked out with only a slight radiation rash. The area is itchy, my skin is pink, and have new freckles where they are targeting my radiation. I am struggling with diminished range of motion and have started a better routine to break the adhesions forming in scar tissue from the mastectomy. Overall, the hardest part has been fatigue. I typically work a few hours in the morning, go to radiation, and go home to take a nap. 

I am happy to report my depression has lifted! Yes, a few changes to medications and my diet and I am feeling HAPPY and HOPEFUL. When I meet with the Radiation Oncologist tomorrow I'm going to ask him how I can refer to my status: 1) I had cancer; or 2) I am in remission. There is still the question of the nodule in my lung. They will do a CT scan in the next month or so to see if it has grown. The important thing is that I'm ready to move from being treated for cancer to being a survivor. 

That being said, I must have a hysterectomy as soon as possible. It will likely be the second or third week of March. While it's not something I'm looking forward to, it is something they insist must be done soon because of my BRCA2+ status. It puts me at greater risk for ovarian cancer.  Other cancers as well, but I'm not dwelling on them at this time.

Here's a small update about my mastectomy recovery. I still have pain from the double mastectomy and am adjusting to my new look. I am putting off reconstruction surgery for a while. The reasons? I still have pain. I finally had a realization about the pain. I read about many women who reported having phantom pain after a mastectomy. I believe that is likely what is happening to me. It is hard to describe the feeling. It feels like a burning pain. I think they also refer to it as Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome. I will talk with the doctor further about it tomorrow. It's quite uncomfortable. 

The "hitches" I'm refer to in the title of the blog are related to vision changes, tinnitis, dizziness, and psoriatic arthritis. The radiation oncologist said to give myself a few months to see if the changes in my vision, tinnitis (ringing in the ears), and dizziness diminish after my treatments. He said he cannot necessarily say these issues are related to chemotherapy, but they could be. I'm frustrated with my vision changes because I have to take my glasses (I'm nearsighted) off to read small print now. 

I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis about five years ago. I was nearly crippling at the time. I gave myself injections of Enbrel and it went into remission in 2008. Because I went through chemotherapy my immune system was non-existent. Because my immune system is starting to wake up - the psoriatic arthritis is waking up too. A few weeks ago, I saw an arthritis specialist and an ultrasound was performed on my left hand and foot and I have erosion and effusion between many joints. Psoriatic arthritis also affects the ends of tendons and ligaments. I've had pain in my left achilles heel for sometime. Now I know why. It is affecting my hands, elbows, knees, and feet. The specialist did some labwork and I'll receive those results in two days. I tested positive for HLA-B27 (a marker for auto-immune diseases) five years ago. He cannot start to treat it until after I have completed radiation. As I said earlier, I've made some changes to my diet, which I'm hoping will alleviate the pain and maybe I won't have to go on arthritis medication.

I've been watching documentaries about nutrition over the last month.  Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  I also highly recommend Crazy Sexy Cancer. Each one had the same theme. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely healthy for you. Of course, I knew this already. It's recommended that we eat fruits and vegetables in our daily diet. I just read the American Cancer Society's recommendation is at least 2 and 1/2 cups per day. The documentaries highlight the benefits of a raw food diet. My friends and family have heard about my new diet approach for the past two weeks. The most inspirational movies to me were Crazy Sexy Cancer and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

Chris Carr, from Crazy Sexy Cancer, has inoperable and untreatable sarcoma in her lungs. She has kept it at bay by juicing raw fruits and vegetables, among other lifestyle changes that have been beneficial for her. Joe Cross, from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, flew from Australia to New York for a 60 day juice fast. He stayed in New York for the first 30 days and traveled from New York to San Diego the remaining 30 days. His starting weight was over 300 pounds and he lost around 100 pounds in the 60 days...just drinking juiced fresh vegetables and fruits. I was so inspired by him I bought a juicer and stocked up on fruits and veggies two days later and have been drinking at least two large glasses of juice a day. I am a little OCD at times and have held myself back from the 60 day juice fast while I'm recovering from my cancer treatments. I spoke to one of my oncologists about it and he had the nutritionist at the cancer center pull together reading materials for me to read, but he said, "I'm not going to tell you that you can't eat a diet with fruits and vegetables!" 

Each movie talks about the increased energy one gains from eating a raw foods diet and I can attest to that myself. I think it's another reason why my spirits have been so much better of late. I also think it's because I'm being proactive and doing this for myself, in order to minimize the risk of a cancer recurrence. Forks Over Knives showed how several people were able to eliminate heart disease by a raw foods diet.  I wrote to Joe Cross about how much I enjoyed the documentary and how inspired I was and he wrote me back! He responded by saying he just read about how this type of diet reduces cancer risk. I am all for that! Of course, this should also be accompanied by exercise! I started walking a few weeks ago and did too much too soon. I need to start again with a modified approach! 

As I reach the milestone of completing my cancer treatments, I want to THANK my family, friends, co-workers, Chemo Angels, and anonymous people who have posted on my blog.  You have all have given me such incredible support! I have no doubt doing something like this alone would be nearly impossible. THANK YOU to each of you!!!  :) 

Soon, I'll start into the next phase of life. Whether it's in remission or as someone who "had" cancer. I will have to go to the cancer center every three months, for three years, to catch a recurrence early. There is a 30% chance it will come back. I'm focused on the 70% chance that it won't. 

From now on my life will be about eating well, exercising, spending time with family and friends, making a difference, laughing, being grateful for the little things in life, staying positive in spite of obstacles, spending time in nature, incorporating more yoga & meditation into my life, ensuring I am living in the moment, and LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST!


Andrea Wortham said...

Denise, I am so happy that you are doing better! I am so proud of you! I am glad treatment is working. What an incredible journey you have had! Someday God will place someone in your life who you will help with your story. Love you, and keep on keeping on!

kate said...

Hooray! So glad to hear that you're feeling so much better and feeling hopeful!! You're such an inspiration.

Thanks for sharing about the raw food/juicing. I've been considering doing a detox/cleanse; going to watch "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" tonight.


knitalot3 said...

You are amazing and your hair is adorable.

Anonymous said...

So happy for you and you sound and look absolutely radiant! What a wonderful post. Brings tears to my eyes.
Huge hugs to you!!!
Your SLC gal Dana

ms said...

blessings, blessings, blessings - sending lots of healing, loving thoughts your way Denise:):):):). So glad to hear you are feeling better.
Susan G.