Thursday, October 21, 2010

sometimes it's the calm afterwards that can be so stressful

Have had some breathing space. No more dramas like finding that hard bit (can't think of how else to describe it) at the bottom of my left breast, and when I saw The Lymph Lady on Monday she said my arm was now so good that after the next visit (in two week's time cos she is going away so had to cancel my appointment on Monday), can look at coming less and less. Wow! Delighted, not least cos of the expense. Although the medical aid pays most of it back, having about R400 to pay once a week (R392.60 to be exact) is quite a huge outlay. Look, the lymph treatment has cost thousands but it's been worth it.
Ok, ok, today my arm did not feel brilliant, but one of the reasons it's been great is that I have been eating less and less and so losing weight and so my arm has got better. Then last night I had about a glass of wine and ate masses of food - all veggies as in steamed asparagus with diet mayo, salad but with avo, and roast butternut, garlic and marrows - and gained weight. Hungry now actually...

Anyway, I find I now have time to think back and remember. To think about the time I had treatment, the time I couldn't go out (to public places) cos my immune system was vulnerable from the chemo (one week after treatment, for a week), to think about what's happened. And I almost feel I want to go back to therapy. Well, have thought that a lot. Don't think I am unstable or unbalanced, just that it feels kinda ....overwhelming? But don't have money for therapy, even though my medical aid will buy for about six months worth, or the bulk of it for six months, I don't have the spare cash to pay for it before I get the money back, ie, to pay upfront. Look, if it was dire, I would make a plan. It's not. Just thinking back a bit. And so glad time has passed and I am well. And glad that time has passed and so it is all something that happened in the past.
And I am so glad I am writing this blog and keeping a record of it all, a record of what I feel and think and.. caught a radio programme this evening about breast cancer and I realised how much I know, partly because I had cancer and also because of this blog and the others I have read and those I read regularly: Julie Goodale's Fitness for Survivors,Robyn Semanko's I am 30 years old and have breast cancer and the remarkable Daria's Living with Cancer/.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More about shadows in breast

Lesions that Produce Posterior Acoustic Shadowing. Acoustical shadowing is not always indicative of malignancy. Cooper's ligaments may shadow because of refraction from the steep angle of incidence. Fibrosis or a previous surgical scar tissue may produce an acoustic shadow. These fibrotic areas are particularly seen in the upper outer quadrant. Fibrocystic breast tissue with pericystic fibrosis may also cause shadowing.

Ultrasound Appearance Of Malignant Disease Of The Breast

* hypoechoic

* irregularly marginated (especially anterior margin)

* heterogeneous internal echoes

* acoustic shadowing

Taken from:GE Healthcare but no idea how reliable a source it is.

What the ultrasound report says

Quickly jotted down what the ultrasound report said in its conclusion before I handed it to The Tango Man, well, left it at the oncology centre:
"Dense diffuse fibroglandular changes are present.
No lymphadenopathy.
(The thing I felt in the left breast) is a ridge of normal breast tissue.
Prominant ducts on both sides.
A cyst behind right nipple."

You know, all those years when I went for mammograms and the doctors said: "You have very dense breasts" I never for one second thought that was a bad thing, that it made me high risk for cancer or, at the very least, made things more difficult to detect.

Really, I thought it was a good thing to have dense breasts, that it helped make my breasts so firm.

Oh well. One lives and learns.

Found today so stressful that am now chilling. Going to watch South African Idols shortly, sipping a whisky and ate a custard slice from Moemas in Parktown North and now feel never want to eat again.

Phew! All fine

What a relief. All fine. The ridge I felt is probably just a cord of breast tissue, said radiologist. But while he was doing the ultrasound on the right breast, he said,"Mmm, think this is a shadow." "What is a shadow? What does it mean?" I asked tentatively, thinking f... hell, one second ago thought I was ok and now I am heading for a double mastectomy cos if it's in the right breast, it's a different cancer. But luckily, I am ok. No shadow, no nothing, all fine, but feeling super tense. Think am going to buy a bottle of whisky on way home and chill rather than go to yoga tonight, will see. "This is how it will be now," said The Yoga Man, and guess this kind of panic will happen again. But I am never getting the cancer back again.

Waiting for ultrasound

So far it seems Ok. The Tango Man says he doesn't think it is anything to worry about, thinks it's fibrous tissue, and says I will have more of this sort of thing cos I have lost weight. 3kg on his scale but have not eaten lunch.
Anyway, says I need an ultrasound but not urgent. At my convenience, he said. This week? I asked. Yes.
Anyway the nurses said they would organise it for me straight away, so now at the clinic about a 2 minute drive away. Have told work gone for tests and probably won't be back today.
Felt horribly nervous and ill shortly before seeing The Tango Man. Feeling better now. The nurses said if it was urgent he would have phoned from his room for an urgent scan appointment and they wouldn't have been able to leave today till I came back with the results. So they're pretty confident and I love The Tango Man. And The Yoga Man,who had said it felt like fibrous tissue.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Am I unnaturally calm?

The manual lymph drainage massage I have to do involves touching various parts of my body, from the lymph nodes on my neck to those in the armpit. Yesterday I felt this kind of thickening at the bottom of my left breast, the same side where I had cancer in the adjacent lymph nodes.
Today it was still there.
Now I happened to have an appointment with The Thyroid Doctor, whom I adore, and I told him about it. (I found it kind of amusing and interesting that he asked me how I was dealing with the problem I had had last January. "Oh, the cancer!" I said.) Anyway, he examined me and said it was "something" but nothing serious, or something like that, and that if it was a lump he would have sent me for an immediate biopsy.
Then later this morning I happened to have an appointment with The Lymph Lady (and incidentally, my arm is fine, thank goodness. I told her: if I have to wear a compression sleeve, I might wear it for one week then I am going to wear it one day on, and one day off, which is about the most daring I have ever been re treatment, but luckily did not even have to contemplate that, although she does want to see me next week again.)
Anyway, she felt it and said she didn't think it was anything serious but I should get it checked out.
Now I had tried to phone the oncology centre earlier but had not got through to the treatment room, where the nurses are (who are the first port of call, as one cannot ask to speak to the doctors.) Well, after The Lymph Lady, I just drove to the oncology centre. There Joyce, the most experienced nurse, examined me and said I wasn't imagining anything, there was something and that she could even feel it when I was sitting rather than lying down, which is usually the easier way to feel anything. But there were no doctors there today. I did not ask why.
And so that is a very long-winded way of saying I am seeing The Tango Man tomorrow, have an appointment at 2.15 and despite spending some time reading the American Cancer Association site for some answers as to how one identifies cancer in the breast, I feel calm. I finished the preventative treatment herceptin about two months ago, maybe three, and well, I don't know really. I hope and pray I am ok, but I feel I am ok. And I will say what I always say: whatever happens, I will deal with it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

my chemo-curls

As I was told - or did I read it - my hair came out curly after it grew out post-chemo. Super curly. And I am loving it.
Recently Carlos, my hairdresser and friend, chopped off the back and am now growing the top bits to my neck so that he can cut it in a style. In the interim, I have bought a pretty vast assortment of alice bands- from a thin gold-coloured band to a pink and white floral one and a black beaded one with a diamante clasp - and wearing it back every day. Carlos also says I have the option of jelling the sides back.
Anyway, tonight I was at an art exhibition at David Krut and this work associate comes up to me and says, while in polite conversation, "Oh, your hair is so curly; is it natural?" (I used to have short cropped hair and so find many people don't recognise me. She did but was astounded, others don't.)
Anyway, I hesitated for a second before answering "Yes". The fact is while one part of me is proud of having recovered so well from having had cancer, and that people cannot believe I was sick; another part of me is ashamed. I don't want people to know. It's part of why I don't want to wear a compression sleeve; it's like walking around with a badge saying "I had cancer".
So I answered this woman saying: "yes" (it's natural).
And I suppose it is. My hair is now naturally curly, even if it wasn't always like this.

Lost another kilogram!

Am chuffed to report that I have lost another kilogram. That is 3 down in about a month. Am sure it will help reduce those millimetres of puffiness from my arm. Had to tell now cos am still in bed, having just done manual lymph drainage massage.

Sometimes I think those blog could be titled Fighting Lymphedema! It's not as if there is nothing else in my life though. Going to two art exhibition openings and a symphony concert tonight, out with friends for dinner tomorrow night but first up have to go for thyroid and cholesterol tests this morning, and with no veins thanks to the chemo, hope it won't be too painful. They must just take blood from my feet.

Anyway, no point in getting tense about it now, Gonna have a fab day...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

super-duper pissed off

My arm both looks and feels terrible. I keep hoping that I am imagining it but don't think so. Last week it was perfect and I pranced around feeling fantastic. Now my left arm feels particularly wobby. And looks thick, plus it was up on Monday when I saw The Lymph Lady.
I will be in despair if I have to wear the compression sleeve. Part of me wants to wear it for a few days to bring my arm down; the other part of me thinks: just enjoy your last days free of a compression sleeve 'cos if it's up on Monday when I see The Lymph Lady, it'll be a compression sleeve for me.
Am praying that it's nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

my weight

Went to the dietician again today. Even though did not have a satisfactory weekend eating-wise (ie, I ate too much), I was down a kilogram from September 13 although up 1.2kg from Saturday morning on my scale.
Have cut down my eating radically - breakfast and lunch still the same - one slice of rye bread with a protein, and a fruit, for breakfast; and a home-made salad and a fruit for lunch - I have been eating salads only in restaurants, and steamed veggies as per usual at home, but with minimal protein.
It feels great to have lost some weight - am down 2kg, well, that's presuming I will have lost the weekend weight today.
Interesting that The Tango Man told me I would lose weight - said I would get thinner, not thin, and he was sure I would lose the 2kg I had gained in the last few months.
What he didn't say was that I would have to diet stringently to do so but am beginning to think it's the herceptin. The dietician said that her patients have gained weight from herceptin, so it kinda makes sense that now I am no longer on it, the weight is falling off a little. I cannot remember if she said weight gain is stated as a side-effect of herceptin or not but just went to herceptin website and could not find it.
I am so desperate to lose weight cos I was already fat when I was diagnosed - then when I went on tamoxifen, was told I would gain 5% of my body weight and I did, despite running to the dietician the minute I gained over a kilogram.
Then it is said - but not the oncologist surprisingly - that if you're thinner, you have less chance of the cancer returning.
And for me, the big pressing need is my arm and the threat of lymphedema following radiation. The thinner I am, the better my arm is. Today my arm was up 2mm in two places, one surprisingly below the elbow, and it doesn't feel great at all but so far, no compression sleeve again. Seeing The Lymph Lady again next Monday.