Monday, February 28, 2011

diabetes test at crack of dawn

Arm ok. Well, it was up - 3cm or was it 2? - at the very top and the other parts have not gone down although it was the top that made the t-shirt tight.
But as long as don't have to wear compression sleeve, I am happy. Just gotta get it down and don't know how. "You are doing all you can," said The Lymph Lady.
Anyway, now have to do for diabetes test tomorrow. It can take three hours as they give you glucose, wait, do a test etc etc.
Besides the fact that I don't wanna be diabetic - who does? - I am concerned as to how I am going to be there at 7.30am AND do lymph massage before I go.
Also, all those blood tests and no veins, thanks to the chemo!!
But that is all minor compared to what the test is for. I cannot believe I could be diabetic - really - as I can honestly say I eat so healthily and have for years and years, plus I exercise, plus there isn't diabetes in our family.
But I have had oral thrush to varying degrees in the past three weeks or so, and now have to say my mouth is dry. When Dr Diabetes Expert heard I had oral thrush and my GP had suggested a diabetes test, he agreed! And he is a world-renowned diabetes expert.
So it's dance umbrella tonight - cannot wait! - then to bed early (difficult but will try) to be up at crack of dawn to go the Centre for Diabetes and Endocronology for the test tomorrow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

panicky moment yesterday

It's been wonderful weather here in Joburg. In fact, the weather here is generally wonderful: very moderate, mostly warm although can get down to momentary minuses in weather (but then only for part of the day, such as early morning/nights) and I don't enjoy the summer rainfall and thunderstorms.
But when it's hot, I tend to wear white; it's cooler. Yesterday put on a white skirt and a t-shirt I haven't worn in ages: white with a black floral print.  It has three-quarter sleeves. So I was most unhappy when it started to "pull" on my left upper arm. After about five minutes, I changed to a cap sleeve plain white t-shirt but my upper arm still felt a little heavy.
Haven't got dressed yet today (still wrapped in a kikoy, a cotton Kenyan wrap ) so have no idea if arm is swollen or not. Even when it is swollen, at the most it goes up by 0.5cm so it's often difficult to tell plus I have developed a distorted perceptin of my arm. It always looks swollen to me. Sometimes I look at it and it appears huge.
Anyway, what upsets me is that I am trying so hard to be calm, an unhassled person. Then have an incident like my t-shirt appearing tight, and I feel in despair that I might have to wear a compression sleeve. It is the thought of that, the reality of that tight thing squeezing my arm, not letting me wear all my summer clothes in this lovely weather but having to boil in long-sleeved tops and being so restricted in what I can wear, which drives me crazy and turns me from a normal person into an anxious, unhappy monster.
Not that I spent the day moping. Far from it. Was so busy - breakfast with friends, then shopping for an engagement present, then to the Oriental Plaza to get some fabric and trimmings for something I am having made, then to nursery with The Yoga Man to get lawn for between the tiles, then some brief reading before dashing off to fetch my friend to go to Dance Umbrella - saw amazing Nigerian-born, Paris-based Qunus Onikeku  (see the video and photos of his work & his blog) - then out to La Cucina di Ciro for dinner. So hardly miff. Now off to an engagement party and have a hefty report to read for a work lunch tomorrow to discuss how best to turn the research into a story.
Not sure if going to try the t-shirt again now. Seeing The Lymph Lady tomorrow anyway.
Oh and must add: delighted, delighted that six months post Herceptin, my nails are now tough - like the rest of me!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's amazing what you can get used to

Was thinking the other day. I remember being so upset when, at high risk for lymphedema, I was banned from wearing underwire bras. Now I have fantastic bras, or should I say, had fantastic bras. Mostly Warners, which is no longer stocked in South Africa because of their high cost, my friend brings them out for me from New York on her annual visits here. Plus I bought a pile when I was in the States.
"Take out the underwire," said The Lymph Lady. But it took me ages to do so. And some worked fine without the wire; others, especially those that tie in the front, didn't.
It was all such a big deal at the time. And now, I was thinking, it's nothing. I still have masses of bras, they are just more ordinary. And whenever I find Triumph bras without underwire - have found three styles, all fab - I buy at least one, or two.
It's like my father always says: "It's amazing what people can get used to".
Oh, and just a quick update: my nails! Suddenly realised this week that the nails on my thumbs are long, and hard!! It seems that six months post Herceptin ending, things are settling down. Fabulous!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Been kinda chilled

Been trying not to spend all my time on the computer and to read more, plus also trying not to obssess re my health, so have had a few days break from blogging.
Healthwise am ok, although:
* went to the GP over my swollen glands and oral thrush. He acknowledged both and suggested I go for a diabetes test - at some point. My thryoid doc has suggested that too, but in October when I see him next, so will do it then. Luckily my mouth now seems fine. Went and bought that dreaded yellow gunge Mycostatin, used it once, and now the problem seems to have gone away. Thank goodness. Seems crazy to think I could have type 2 diabetes when I eat so damn healthily and exercise....So far, so good though;
* went to see the gastroenterologist about having a colonoscopy. It seems that the familial link is not really there, that those that have that type of colon cancer get it by 40 and my mom and her two siblings were in their late 70s or 80s when they died. Not sure how old my uncle Harry was though when he was first diagnosed but I know he had it for years and pretty sure was 80-something when he died.
Despite that, doctor agreed that I should have one. Dreading it. Cannot bear the thought of anything being wrong with me. Two things were hilarious though. As I cannot risk having blood pressure taken or a needle used on my left arm, which is high-risk for lymphedema, he suggested I wear a tag on that arm to remind him!Also, when he asked about my eating habits, I was horrified at how I knew exactly what I ate, down to having had 750ml of water that day already, one cup of green tea, one cup of chai tea... etc etc.... I explained: twice I have gained weight without eating more: once when I had thyroid and gained weight uncontrollably even though my thyroid was overactive and I should have got skinny; and more recently from tamoxifen although that is now under control. So I am hyper aware of everything I put in my mouth, both good and bad, and without feeling guilty, am just very aware...
Miss Daria and her blog, Living with Cancer. Strange that....I so enjoyed her positivity and her wonderful what-can-I-do-about-that-problem attitude to everything.
Meanwhile, am very busy. Lots on the go, what with Dance Umbrella and symphony concerts and, oh, work of course.In fact, the only reason I am at home tonight is cos the author's talk and dinner I was meant to go to was cancelled. Toyed with movies but then thought that a quiet night might be a good idea......

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Z-Sampler all ok

Got the results of my Z-Sampler - the horrible, horribly sore test/scrape for endometrial cancer - and it's all normal.
Monday going to see the doctor re having a colonoscopy. He wanted to do the procedure straight after the consultation but as I have never had one before, wanted time to prepare myself for it. Colon cancer is in the family and my mother was diagnosed with it about five days before she died - felt the lump on the Thursday night, saw doctor on the Friday, had a colonoscopy on the Monday, was told she was a perfect candidate for an operation, which was then scheduled for the following week - and died in the early hours of the Saturday morning, days before the scheduled op. Strange indeed.
Be that as it may, have had one other niggly health hassle. Got oral thrush over the weekend. Just like I had when I had chemo - although then it was worse as it spread to my throat. Had ceremoniously thrown away all that dreaded yellow gunge (Nycostatin) dotted around my home and workplace and work bag and gym bag quite recently, but had mouth wash recommended by the oncology centre and although it had expired in October last year, used it and two days later, it was gone. Feels like it is now back, but only slightly.
When I looked on the internet for causes of oral thrush, I felt suicidal but I know going to the internet for medical info, rather than respected websites, is dangerous so will wait and see.
The Yoga Man says I am obssessed with my health. Trying not to rush to the doctor for the slightest thing but it did save my life, I am sure, that I went to the doctor the same day I felt the lump, despite having had a mammogram and ultrasound less than two months before....
Anyway, cos am trying not be health-obssessed, have held off making an appointment after the gynae on Monday remarked that it seemed the ganglion on my hand was not a ganglion and I should see a hand surgeon, going on to recommend some. I cannot have surgery on that hand as it is the side which is high-risk for lymphedema but will ask The Lymph Lady on Monday for her opinion - she specialises in hand rehab..... one of her specialisations.
Otherwise, am very well. Chuffed to report that have kind of kept my weight down - am now up half a kg but now 1.4kg more than when I was diagnosed two years ago so not so bad considering I am on tamoxifen - and went to the symphony concert last night and off to three art exhibition openings tonight and then to a friend for dinner.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The dreaded Z-Sampler

Last time I felt I had shrieked so loudly, I felt the whole of Linksfield Clinic - well, at the very least those on the ground floor buzzing around the coffee shop - must have heard me.
This time I thought it might be a bit better, cos I had had it before, and so was prepared and after all, I kept thinking, it's not like it goes on for ever.
Well, I just remember saying to The Prof (my gynae), "please stop!"
But of course he had to finish the procedure. And my tummy, below the belly button, did hurt like before, but not so badly.
Basically the Z-Sampler is like a pap smear but of the uterus. And it hurts like hell. Well, for me it does. But I need to have it done because tamoxifen can cause endometrial cancer and they need to monitor it. I get the results on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feel like a new person

Tomorrow is International Cancer Day and two years since I started chemo.

Somehow, since I have been given a clean bill of health, to the point where I can now increase my exercise and see the oncologist a little less frequently, I feel like a new person. I am now me, instead of someone with cancer or someone having cancer treatment or someone who had cancer.

And I am confident that today, at least, I am cancer-free. I pray it stays that way.

I am feeling very emotional about it all. So much so that I feel like throwing a huge party. Don't have the money to do so now; maybe later.

But starting the party vibe by taking cakes - probably chocolate croissants from Fournos - to the oncology centre tomorrow, both the chemo and radiation sections.

Incidentally, my arm is not feeling great but trying not to think about it and praying that it will go down by Monday, when I see The Lymph Lady.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Last night I dreamt about The Tango Man, as I was scheduled to see him today for my three-monthly check-up. Also in my dream was L, my old school friend, who recently had a right breast masectomy after a recurrence of breast cancer 11 years after she had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation.
Anyway, don't remember much about the dream other than it wasn't a nightmare and people watched me interact with The Tango Man from raked seating, which might have been outdoors, an experience I wasn't that comfortable about not being private.
The raked seating might be because I like theatre but cannot remember watching a show in such a setting recently, apart from Maynardville outdoor theatre in Cape Town but which has loose seats rather than the scaffolding of my dream. And I think I dreamt about him because I was so anxious about the pending appointment but was not really articulating my feelings, apart from on this blog.
Anyway, I am all fine. I knew my mammogram and ultrasound were ok, and my muga, but did not know the results of the blood tests. So all very happy. Well I was so happy afterwards I told the nurses: I could cry. But I didn't.
I enjoyed my encounter with The Tango Man who has turned out to be far more amiable and less intimidating than expected. As The Yoga Man says, he cannot be too friendly if he thinks you gonna die. Put another way, he warms up when he knows you're ok.
Besides gushing about how grateful I am that I am ok, and saying I will do whatever he says, even swing from the chandelier - then adding that I didn't think I could actually do that, to which he added that he didn't think so either! - this is what he answered to my questions.
I explained that I was fine, but wanted him to know a few of my side-effects/symptoms, because I think it is important to document things (so he knows what % of patients experience what), plus I had a few questions.
1) SWOLLLEN GLANDS IN MY NECK: He said they were soft glands and clearly a viral infection. He was unconcerned. Relief, cos when I felt them upon waking up on Saturday, it intensified my anxiety about today's visit, so much so I did not even write about it.
2) NAILS: My nails are thin and keep breaking. Herceptin or tamoxifen? Last time he had said herceptin as the trial for oral herceptin reported soft nails as a side-effect. Today he said tamoxifen should make my nails stronger. I then dismissed it, saying it would clearly improve, and I could live with it.
3) EYESIGHT: Had noticed my eyesight was deteriorating, not least when I went for my driver's licence renewal. Was it the meds? He seemed non-committal about answering that but said I should have my eyes checked. No, well, fine. No problem.
4) TAMOXIFEN WHEN MENOPAUSAL: I told him L, my old school friend, had said she was told that tamoxifen was not for menopausal women (have not had my periods since the chemo). He smiled, as if to say that was not true. So I am ok, right? Cool.
5) METALLIC TASTE IN MOUTH: I had had that recently. Meds? No, he said.
6) HOT FLUSHES. Wanted to tell him I was still having hot flushes from the tamoxifen and they seemed to be getting worse, but no big deal. He wrote it down.
7) ASPIRIN FOR BOWEL CANCER: My sister had asked me to ask him re aspirin as a preventative for bowel cancer. He said it didn't work if you had a predisposition towards it. I do as it's in my family. But if I wanted to take it, not more than 3 to 5X a week but to be aware that it had its own problems, such as causing bleeding and... I won't take it then, I said, as he seemed not to think it was a great idea (that's when the swinging from the chandelier comment came up).
8) THE MUGA AND EXERCISE: I asked him not to shout at me like he did last time ("Who said that doing more exercise would be good for you?" he had screamed when I had asked if I could do more cardio as walking to the shops from work was more energetic than what I did on the treadmill). Well, surprise surprise, he said I could do more. "You're fine, all your tests are fine, your bloods, your muga, your....". My biokineticist had said I was doing about 65% of .. and this I am not sure.. but it relates to my heart rate, and he said I could up it to 75%. So I want to do what I usually do on Friday and measure it, and then up it 10% accordingly. Was ecstatic about this. Now still thrilled, just a little tired.
9) THAT HORRIBLE TEST AT THE GYNAE:As tamoxifen can cause endometrial cancer, I had to have that horrible test of the uterus. I explained that there had been a discrepancy which we had discussed before: he had said it only needed to be tested once a year; the gynae had said every six months. Then he said, fine, do what the gynae says, and I said great, cos going next week.
Then we discussed my having a colonoscopy. Well I said I hadn't booked one yet but he had said I needed to have it within six months, and I said I was anxious about it. They put you to sleep, he said. It's the result, I said. You are having it to be preventative, he said.
And that was that. A brilliant visit to The Tango Man, whom I trust implicitly and adore and respect. I think it's important to have a doctor you trust. I am lucky. And lucky to be well. On Friday, international cancer day, it will be exactly two years since I started chemo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

my three month check-up tomorrow

Had a fabulous holiday in Cape Town. Really enjoyed myself, going out with my dad a lot, eating at Overture in Stellenbosch which was quite an experience with its magnificent view of a "hidden valley", as the name of the farm describes; going to Maynardville open air theatre in Wynberg (why are there no pictures on their website???) to see a brilliant production of The Taming of the Shrew) and just generally having a good time. Oh, also went to The Duchess of Wisbeach (hell, they don't even seem to have their own website) which is oh-so-funky and oh-so-trendy and oh-so-f..-irritating for not having a portable credit card machine... and  discovered (my dad's recommendation) the oh-so-fabulous Sotano in Mouille Point.
Anyway, part of the reason for this build-up is that I spend far too much time moaning on this blog, guess it's my outlet to do so, and I do not want anyone reading this to think I am just a misery who lives in a state of anxiety. For I do not.
Yes, I am anxious about my three-monthly check-up tomorrow. Yes, I am not charmed that my arm was up in a million places on Monday. Yes, am pissed off with myself that I gained 1.2kg on holiday - if I haven't lost it by tomorrow morning will be furious but then guess that the two bars of Chilli Lindt I just had won't do much to further that aim...And yes, not charmed that had swollen glands in my neck since Saturday although I think they might have disappeared today...
Anyway, things are ok. Sure will lose weight, sure my arm will get back to normal and just praying that all is well tomorrow.