Monday, November 30, 2009

ay ya ya.... measuring my arm

Been on a week's leave and back at work today. D-r-eadful. Was totally miserable all day but worked till 7.30pm cos took me so long to get through all the emails. Think I am now back in the groove though.
Anyway, been to Cape Town twice in the last two weeks. Once on a planned holiday, the other time when my dad got very ill very suddenly - he is fine now.
Saw The Lymph Lady today and it seems all the flying could have affected my arm. It has gone up 1/2cm in two places on my lower arm - the wrist and the middle of the forearm I think it is. This hasn't happened before. Usually it's my upper arm. The Lymph Lady says it's ok but fak, if it gets worse... will have to wait and see. In the interim, am seeing her every week for the next few weeks but that was pre-arranged anyway.
Funnily enough, I am ok about it. Plus gained a little weight on holiday - damn, damn,damn - which has also probably contributed to the increase in swelling. Damn, damn, damn. Gotta lose weight.
But she did also say that i was the first person she knew where the chemo had taken away the cancer completely - The Yoga Man says it's cos I didn't have a primary tumour and my cancers were 'byproducts' as it were (I don't agree, I don't think), and also that I can now progress to using 1kg weights at biokinetics, alternating with the 1/2kg weights. So that is good news.
Oh my gosh, what happened to the time? It's almost 11pm. Gonna read. Been reading a lot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talking vs not talking about it

I realised today while waiting to meet a work colleague here in cape town that i no dont like to talk about having had cancer to people who dont know. So when one person once said, "Oh, u have grown your hair back!" i left it and let him think i had shaved it off for fun. Then today this colleague asked if i had seen my mom before/when she died - we were having an intense conversation - and i explained i had been too sick. Then I thought, what the hell, and told her how i had been having chemo and my blood levels dropped and the oncology centre would not let me fly and then the next day when i booked my flight for the funeral the oncologist, a locum, said i was to wear a surgical mask on the flight and no one was to kiss or hug me. ........ Ja ja ja..... Now i am thinking of going to a support group meeting, Am going to find out when next they have one at the oncology centre. Think they are about three hours long, which is a bit much, but want to meet other women on herceptin and tamoxifen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

wonder how one stops worrying

People keep saying I look well - I suppose I look better than when I was on chemo but how do I know I am ok? When I got diagnosed, I felt better in all senses - physically and mentally - than I had for years yet I had breast cancer.
Now I don't feel as perfect as I felt then, thanks to side-effects from the medication I am on. The herceptin and tamoxifen combine to make me a little tired, well, pretty tired, especially stamina-wise, the herceptin makes me feel spacey at times and the tamoxifen gives me horrible hot flushes.
Would hate to have the cancer return. That's why I am taking herceptin and tamoxifen but they are not 100% foolproof.
My friend Tania's mom died of cancer on Friday but guess her circumstances were very different.
Would love to know how others feel on herceptin. I was told there were no side-effects until I started having them, The Lymph Lady told me about how most of her patients feel on it, and the oncology centre finally acknowledged that what I was feeling was legit and expected (except for the mouth ulcers which they claim is not from herceptin).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Americans than South Africans

I live in South Africa,in Johannesburg, yet more Americans than South Africans read this blog.
Looking at today's stats, 43% of people who read this blog are from the US, 37.4% are from South Africa, 6.6% are from Canada, 2% from Australia and 1% from Israel.
Then, to lessening degrees under 1% are readers from Denmark, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Finland, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Hong Kong and Turkey.
I find that pretty fascinating. I think some of my friends who live overseas read this blog but don't think many, if any, of my friends who live in South Africa read it. Interesting, hey......

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

serves me right

After writing that arrogant and somewhat flippant post on Monday about coping with adversity, and how much of it is a decision to cope, I had a sleepless night, tossing and turning and worrying about things.
So there. Ok, not all illness-related, in fact, mostly not, but nonetheless was not a picture of coping well.
Also having huge hassles with hot flushes from the tamoxifen pills. Especially at night and wish I knew a way to control it. Did ask The Tango Man but if I remember correctly, there isn't much one can do. The pills lower estrogen, if I remember correctly, and that causes the hot sweats. Terrible as feel as if I want to sleep with a fan on all night.
Have also had more pain in my radiated area. Mentioned it at oncology centre but they told me just to monitor it. Well, not just more pain but also when I do the manual lymph massage it feels different over my left boob. More bumpy as it were. The head nurse said she thought it was just scar tissue from the radiation (she didn't examine me). I tried to get an extra appointment with The Lymph Lady but she is away next week and I cancelled my appointment today cos had major meeting at work - which was cancelled. Never cancelling an appointment with her again. Oh well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

coping with adversity

I am beginning to think that copying is a choice. It sounds crazy even to me but I think you have to grit your teeth and decide: that's it, I am going to deal with this and then it becomes easy. If you don't cope, it's more difficult.
I look at my dad who lost his partner after 54 years and he mourned for a month, and then got on with life. I still cannot believe my mom is dead and sure my dad cannot either but he is totally cheerful and takes delight in everything. He got sick last week and we were told it was serious. By Saturday afternoon I felt hysterical, thinking I felt like hiding under a duvet and never coming out. Then I decided that my dad would hate that, so spoke to my sisters saying we had to grab life and enjoy it. So we all went out that night and this evening spoke to my dad and he sounded brilliant.
I wouldn't say I am not coping with having had cancer but have to admit that the niggly side effects of the treatments often get me down, but not for long. I want to feel 100% again and will do whatever it takes. This morning got on the scale and was 2,5kg more. Damn - either eating or boozing too much or it's the tamoxifen pills but I am going to beat it. Giving it a week, then going to Cape Town again next week and if my weight is not down when i return, going to see the dietician again, whether I can afford her damn expensive consultations or not.
Sadly therapy has been a bit of a disappointment to me. I knew the day I was diagnosed that I would start this blog and go to therapy but think it helped the least of everything I have done. Biokinetics and having contact with The Lymph Lady who is so clued up with the treatments and their side-effects have helped far more. Excercise has been a big, big help. Like going to a biokineticist the minute I got diagnosed and banned from gym to get a programme of low-energy exercises which I did consistently, if not everyday, during chemo.... combined with a bit of recuperative yoga poses. Now I do bio - high-energy bio which includes 15 minutes of cardio - three times a week and yoga once a week.
Not sure why the therapy was such a disappointment cos went to the same therapist i had been to before and who had been very helpful in giving me pointers to deal with work problems in the past. Now I still have work hassles but hopefully just deal with them a bit better!!
Everyone tells me I am a coper, that my attitude is good but i often find that annoying. I have no choice but to deal with it. However, this weekend in Cape Town with my dad in intensive care made me realiser that coping can be a choice. That you take action and things become easier.

Monday, November 9, 2009

lymph update

Saw The Lymph Lady today and, as usual, she measured my arm and then did manual massage. Said all is well with my arm - so as usual i was being paranoid - but when I mentioned I had read in Wikipedia that tamoxifen can cause lymphedema, she said it cannot cause if but if one is at risk, tamoxifen can push one over the edge into it. Fab. I am on tamoxifen.
Then I come home and sit here and think about it. Not good.
So praying all is well with my arm.
And the damn tamoxifen is causing such bad hot flushes that my whole face goes red. Wonder if there is anything I can do to prevent it or counteract it. Must google it sometime but it's nearly midnight now and still gotta do lymph massage.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

just realising how lucky i am

Reading about lymphedema just now and also about a possible symptom which could accompany it called erysipelas, I realise how lucky I am. I have a slightly swollen arm caused from radiation following breast cancer, and you can't even notice it. Just hope it has not increased in size though. Will find out tomorrow.

the arm

I know I harp on about it but when u are threatened with lymphedema plus have to do manual lymph drainage massage twice a day, it is hard to forget about it.
Like today, for the second time on a Sunday, jumped up and went about my activities filled with the joy of a wonderful summer's day, when I remembered I had forgotten to do the massage.
The worst though is looking at my arm and seeing that my left arm is slightly puffier than the right arm. All I pray for now is that it stays the same and does not worsen.
But, as The Yoga Man says, my arm always worsens or I feel it worsens when an appointment with The Lymph Lady looms, and I am due to see her tomorrow at 9.30am!
And must say, tired at time - did work for over 15 hours on Friday - but generally happy and think I have become more confident and bolder.