Saturday, March 17, 2018

One More To Go

I'm a little over 4 weeks since chemo, and will have 1 more on the 21st of March.  The last one! I am overhoyed and apprehensive, at the same time.  No scan, per the doctor, so how will they know treatment actually worked?  How will I know if the pain I feel is just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, age-related aches?  I don't have answers to either question, BUT!

I am determined to do everything in my power to make sure my body is as cancer proof as it can be. A week or two ago, I started paying attention to diet, more specifically, nutrition.  Lots of veggies, no red meat, organically fed chicken, omega 3 eggs, wild-caught salmon, and since sardines are (ick) the worst things I ever tasted, Kipper Snacks.  Added green tea (not much for now, don't want anything to interfere with chemo), ginger tea, all those things (or, most of them) that stock a cancer killing kitchen.  I can't tell you whether or not there is a slaughter in progress, but  good HEAVENS, there is such a change in my mood!  That can probably be attributed to the omega 3's, and if it's true, I will never again take another antidepressant. 

I woke up yesterday morning, and magically, had the desire to shower, dress, and put on some make-up.  To do some laundry, which did happen, but amazingly, not only did I wash clothes, I PUT THEM AWAY!! Regardless of how breathless I was, regardless that every step felt like slogging through cold molasses.  That was a big step for me.

There's a big possibility this could be because the last chemo was so long ago and the side effects have abated significantly, but the diet probably has a lot to do with it, also.  Resume work day is May 1, and I was wondering how in the world I could do it.  Maybe it will happen, maybe my energy will increase, maybe I can get my life back!  If I do, it will be better than it was before.

I want to give back more than before.  There are so many places and situations that need community involvement...going to see where I can best serve. 

For now, I need to get up and get things done.  It's a good St. Patty's day!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Just Looking Back

On the surface, my life has been little more than ordinary, most times boring beyond words.  Yet, there is so much more, below the surface.  I have truly been blessed.

I have seen a skulk of foxes running toward my car as I drove down Ashemont Road.  Have seen racoons playing on an embankment, have watched a deer hunker down and make her escape while a group of hunters with their backs turned plotted their hunting strategy.  I never said a word, just admired her and snickered a little at the hunters.  Have seen two deer swim in the pond where we were fishing, and have watched one eat crabapples at the fence.  I have escaped injury when the neighbors' horses broke through their fence and thundered through my yard, shaking the ground, running for all their worth.

I have had the love of many good dogs throughout my life -- two of them protected me from what they perceived as threats, and very well could have been.  

I have felt the sun warm my skin, and water cool the burn in the summer.  I have heard the sound of snow against snow, have marvelled at the renewal of life in the spring.  I have watched the sky, heard the birds singing as though they were rejoicing at the break of day.  I have watched the mist rise from mountain tops, and have been lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean as it found its way to shore.

I have confronted an undercover drug enforcement agent when he asked me where he could score some good stuff (a serious case of mistaken identity) and lectured him on the dangers of drugs, and how the people behind my place of employment were being strong-armed out of their social security checks.

I have fled with my mother to safety after finding her, bloodied, trapped in my drunk father's arms, have later poured his stash down the drain in front of him. At a later time, I had the good sense to scream for help when, stone cold sober, he tried to choke me.  He let me go.  And once, when I was fifteen, I stopped him from leaving the house with a loaded gun, bent on revenge, and was able to talk him down.

I have made mistakes, poor choices, but managed to work through them and come out a little worse for the wear, but a little wiser.

I have carried life twice, and may not have been the perfect parent, but I learned what it feels like to love a child and have been awed at how powerful and enduring that love can be.

I have walked down the halls with a concentrated population of rapists, murders, and other offenders and have been protected and safe.  I have read sex offenders their duty to report and have had them tell me unbelievable bits of information I never asked for and didn't want to know, and have wondered about why and what the purpose of hearing and seeing all of this has been.  I have entered an intensive control block and have been treated respectfully.  There IS a power in the universe that watches over all of us.  Of that, I am certain.

I have lost my brother, parents, and best friend in a short period of time and let the pain and grief take me under and stayed there until, one day, I found myself surface and carry on.  All of us...all of us...have more strength than we ever knew, and can survive that which we thought would surely kill us.

I have battled cancer, am still battling cancer, and am not sure which of us will win the fight, but I don't have time to be afraid, until the wee hours of the morning when all is quiet and there's too much time to think and regret all that I have not done or seen. I worry my life has been too dull, I haven't done enough for other people or myself  and every time I ask myself what I should do, the response is immediate - Fight!  And that's what I will do.

I'm just not finished being amazed by life, just yet.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial/uterine cancer is probably one of the least researched cancer, and the most common cancer among women.  If caught early, prognosis is good.  If not, depending on the type of tumor, prognosis can be poor. It is not like people seem to think, that it is the most curable cancer.  It can be, but also can NOT be.

This post is not written from a medical standpoint.  I am not in the healthcare field.  However, I am a regular  post- meonopausal woman who is diagnosed with mixed carcinoma.  I have high grade stage IIIC-1 metastatic serous adenocarcinoma and am currently undergoing chemo and radiation.  This type of cancer is particulary aggressive and will be treated like ovarian cancer.

My symptoms were vague:  unexplained weight loss (seemed like a dream come true!  I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight.  If that happens, get thee to a physician ASAP and make them listen.  My doctor didn't listen to me when he marveled at my weight loss and I told him I had not tried).

Low back pain, spotting, hip pain (my hip actually locked up while walking), fatigue, lower abdominal bloating, cramps.  I thought it was:  1. my regular back pain, because I am an older woman and the doctor told me each time I complained that..well, you ARE getting older...2.  Maybe I wasn't quite finished with my periods, who knew.  The cramps do feel like menstrual cramps.

I am posting this in hopes that it helps another woman.  Advice to you:

Have regular pap smears.  My cancer actually showed up on the pap smear.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, especially the bleeding, no matter how light, and the weight loss, seek treatment immediately.  DO NOT delay. 

DO NOT let your medical provider disregard your symptoms.  If he/she won't listen, call your gynecologist and insist upon tests.  DO NOT let your provider tell you, are getting older.  Your life may depend on it.

DO YOUR RESEARCH!  There are more symptoms than what you have read here.

No matter what your age, PLEASE BE AWARE that heavy periods can also be an indicator.  There are 20-something year olds in my support group who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It is not as uncommon as you might think.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Encouragement? i'm going to take it as such

Got the test results from my CA 125 test.  The value is 19, normal range is 0-35.  The lab included a disclaimer with words to the effect of - these results should not be an indicator of the presence or absence of cancer without other tests.  BUT - I'm taking it as a sign of good things to come.

It's a good day.  :-)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bald is Beautiful

On my visits to the oncologist, I see ladies with pretty scarves covering their hairless heads.  Some women can carry off that look, kind of cute and feminine.  They definitely don't wear that resigned look on their faces, and the ones I've seen still have their eyelashes and eyebrows.  In the face of what really matters - fighting for their lives - hair loss seems a fair trade-off.

Trust and believe, it doesn't seem that small when your hair begins falling out.  Two weeks to the day of the first treatment, I was riding in my husband's truck, windows down, and I kept seeing these wispy things fly around the cab.  What IS that?...At first, I had no idea, but I caught one.  It was my hair, detaching from my head in the wind.

It isn't that hard to describe that first reaction:  a little bit of horror mixed with a little disbelief.  But I knew this was coming, Dr. S. had said it would happen.  Yet, i was overcome with grief, and I cried.  It's not that my hair was so beautiful, but it had that wave to it that gave it a smoky, 50's kind of look when it was cut right.  And besides, I was kind of attached to it.

I had the foresight to buy some chemo caps before treatment began, so I plopped one of my head when we got home.  Took it off a while later and it was full of strands.  By then, I was used to the idea of losing it.  It's a trade-off, and it's temporary.  I can live with it, in more ways than one.

This morning, it's coming out in clumps.  My eyelashes are next.  I can feel them itching and stinging, and I'm scared to rub them or even put mascara on.  Losing those might be a little harder, but, there again, a trade-off.  And they will grow back, too.

It's nothing but vanity, you know?

I wanted to prepare my son for my new look.  He's taking all this a little hard, even though he tries not to show it.  I know because when we talk on the phone, he says I love you before we hang up.  He is a young man of few words and an overabundance of testosterone that keeps him from always showing his softer side. When I told him of my impending baldness, he said, Let me know when you get it shaved so I can shave mine, too.  His show of love and support brought tears to my eyes, but I hope he doesn't shave his head.  Again.  he spent the last 5 years looking like Mr. Clean (his choice) and has just recently began sporting his hair again  - complete with a little styling and some gel to keep it looking that way.  He is handsome with or without, but he looks really nice with, and I can tell he likes it.  I hope he'll keep his.

Today, I'm going to the prison for an employee appreciation dinner.  Can't decide whether to wear my cap or not, but probably will.  Would hate for the fan to hit me and blow hair all over everybody's food.  After that, I'll be off in search of bandanas, hats, and some earrings.  Might as well rock the look!

It really is a small price to pay for a chance to live.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Never thought I'd want to go to work this badly.

I'm doing pretty good today.  Neurontin for the nerve pain, nothing else needed. I just hope that, IF there are any microscopic  cancer cells in my body, the chemo is acting like Raid on steroids and killing them all.

Second round is coming up on Tuesday.  I'm a little nervous about that, not sure if they're increasing the dose or if it will be the same.

On the plus side, the laundry room is almost as clean as I want it to be.  Hoping to finish all my projects before next week!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I hear the Aberdeen-Rockfish chugging on by...

We have lived by the railroad tracks most of our lives.  There was a brief stint I lived on Ashemont Road, and even though I couldn't see the train, I could hear it.  Some nights on the back deck, I could hear it's whistle, or maybe it was the Amtrack in Southern Pines, not sure.  It is a lonely sound in the night, somehow mournful, but as a kid, I remember getting so excited when the first whistle came.  We kids would drop everything we were doing - sorry, ice cream, no time for you! - and rush to the glass panels at Grandma's front door to watch the cars roll by.  It was the biggest thing on wheels we had ever seen, a special sighting that filled us with awe and wonder twice a day, like clockwork.

My Grandfather was a farmer.  He owned most of the land on this end of the county and raised produce of every kind, including Congo watermelons.  They are the huge ones that only a grown man could carry, let alone slice.  The Rockfish-Aberdeen would stop, I'm told, and those watermelons would be loaded up and carried to who-knows-where, as I imagine the peaches from Poole's orchard were, too.

The peaches were sold under the Blue Diamond label.  I only know this because my father eventually bought the peach orchard, and I loved plundering in the pack shed.  I found the labels, packing crates, baskets, old equipment...and there was a hand pump beside the shed!  It still worked, and I thought it was the most awesome thing in the world to get a cool cup of water, right from the ground.

A little west of the orchard and the farm was the Sanitorium, built on the highest peak in the county.  The Aberdeen Rockfish rolled past that, too, and the passengers would cover their faces with handkerchiefs so as not to contract tuberculosis.  Back in the day, that peak was called Pestilence Hill.

It was a beautiful old building, more majestic than ominous. It was three stories high, the third floor with a balcony for the patients to sit in the sun to help "cure" their condition.  On the second floor, there was a chapel that gleamed with polished maplewood pews and pulpit.  The chapel was probably the most attractive feature.  The patient rooms were located on the first and second floors, not so austere as you might think.  And there was a fire tower. From there, and the balcony, you could see for miles, into the next county

I know this because after it was consigned to the dept. of corrections, I worked there.  I remember the old elevator that had iron gates around the doors - straight out of a horror movie! No, from another time.  Our office faced the road, and therefore the railroad tracks, too.  By then, the Aberdeen-Rockfish wasn't making daily trips anymore, but there were mornings when we would hear the whistle, and for just a minute, all work would cease as we watched that train seemingly struggle up the hill and on past us.

The landscape has changed, as all will with time.  The sanitorium is closed, but the grounds are still kept up by the state.  The peach orchard is gone, replanted in pines and the land leased out for the pinestraw.  The packshed burned to the ground about 20 years ago, I guess, but the platform still stands, and Grandfather's farmland is now littered with overgrowth and new homes.  The railroad tracks will be there forever, I suppose.  And though the A&R makes its trips only occasionally, it still lives.  I hope it always will.