Breast Cancer: the aftermath

Even though I am, at this moment, cancer free, I am still trudging down this road. I have one more surgery to go, and I have just this week been accepted into the active arm of a breast cancer research study. Because, being cancer free doesn’t really mean you are actually cancer free. Those little cells can hide for years before attaching themselves to another location in your body, most commonly to your bones, lungs, liver or brain, and when they do that they can kill you. Cancer in your breast is never going to do that. If you had cancer that stayed in your breast, no matter how ugly it became, you would not die. But after a bit breast cancer cells get hungry for something more, and they travel to your lymph glands. Every single one of mine tested was positive for cancer, so mine had already started this merry journey. From the lymph glands they can travel to the rest of the body, and when they come to rest somewhere vital, that’s when they take your life. And for some reason once this happens, the cancer is considered incurable. They can treat it, hold it at bay for years, but they cannot make it go away.

So I have enrolled in this trial to try to help prevent that. It’s based on the fact that women who are thin at the time they are diagnosed with cancer have far less chance that it will reoccur. What this trial is trying to assess is whether getting thin after diagnosis has the same protective effect. So in the active arm, they are going to help me to get thin. I am not entirely clear on exactly how they are going to do this. Education, yes, but I have the education. I know how to get thin. In the active arm, there is intervention, which means people are going to call me on the phone and that is supposed to help me lose weight. Now I know myself to be the rebellious type. I have a watch that tells me to breathe, and tells me it’s time to stand up, and my response is never to say “okay” and take a deep breath or stand up. Nope. I yell at the watch to shut up and stop telling me what to do!

So we will see how this goes. I have some extra incentive here, right? First, I don’t want my breast cancer to advance to Stage IV, and second this is a research study. Somehow I might be helping others to stay alive. Maybe doing for others will stir in me the motivation that doing for myself never seems to,

The study is short on coaches right now, so I probably won’t start until December. At least there is Thanksgiving! Of course, December also contains Christmas and a couple of birthdays, but January is already depressing enough.

I also have an appointment with my plastic surgeon this week, to discuss my options. I did some research on the option he prefers to create nice new boobs. It is a complex procedure, with recovery periods up to 13 weeks! I just don’t have time for that! So I’m going in to see what is the quickest, easiest way to do this, and what is the soonest I can get it done. What I have now is simply unlivable, one DD floppy boob and one no boob. There is nothing that can be done to disguise the fact that I had a mastectomy. Dressing professionally on a daily basis is kind of out of the question. But my disability ran out before I even finished chemo, and my money is going to do the same if I don’t get on with things and get a job. If I’d had a double mastectomy I honestly would probably have chosen to just live with it, at least for the time being, but this is just impossible. So I want to see if I can just get two matching little boobs, no bigger than the minimal expander I have now. I have had big boobs all my life and I don’t like them. I would much rather have small, athletic boobs than voluptuous boobs. Hoping and praying the answer is yes. It would also be nice to squeeze it in before the end of the year, so I won’t have to pay a new big fat deductible. I’d been told I had to wait a minimum of four months after radiation for the procedure my doctor wants to do, and December is only three months, but maybe the wait is less for a lesser procedure. I know, there is Christmas in December, my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, and I have a granddaughter who is due to be born in the middle of the month. Very bad timing. But lots of money potentially saved.

But I’m thinking out loud here, which is unnecessary. I will find out on Wednesday.

Meanwhile I have not yet resumed a human-like appearance. I have hair, yes I do, but every day is a bad hair day. Most of the time I look like the scary chickens in The Good Dinosaur. Here is a glimpse, in case you are unacquainted with scary chickens.

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Anyway, I have taken to wearing hats, baseball caps, which I actually like, and which fix the problem. But they don’t seem to be appropriate for all  occasions, like church, or job interviews. I have a tentative appointment for a hair cut to see if this mess can be tamed, but I have also grown kind of attached to the curls that fold back over the hats, and honestly any hair is precious at this point. I’m just at a loss as to what to really do with it.

One day I know this will all be over. I will be a regular person again. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my original diagnosis, and it seems like it’s been a very long journey already. The active treatment phase was enough. This dragging out part is too much. I have roads to run and mountains to climb, just for fun! I have places to go and things to do, people to love and accomplishments to achieve. So, let’s get on with things!

TO LIFE!

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