The good things about having cancer

Although cancer really sucks (cancerisajerk.org), there are some good things that come from it.

1) For example, social media is a lot kinder to you when you have cancer.

cancer_1

2) Even small accomplishments are made big when you are fighting off the effects of chemo.

cancer_2

3) I haven’t had to shave my legs or armpits in a month. This can last forever as far as I’m concerned.

4) The peach fuzz on my head doesn’t take much care. I literally used a drop of shampoo yesterday. It was too much. I’ve calculated that at this rate, a bottle of shampoo will last me 8,872 days (give or take a day or so…).

image

That’s a little over 24 years for a 15 oz. bottle. I hope I like the scent I picked out…

5) You save a lot of money on haircuts. As a matter of fact, I cut my own hair the other day.

image

It was just one hair that had gone wild in my sideburn area. Only took a second to clip that baby off 🙂 and now I’m back to my clean cut look again 😀

6) You automatically surpass just about anyone’s “bad day” post on Facebook, and can answer their  whiny “my boss looked at me funny” posts with an honest “You think you have it bad? I have cancer!!” That usually shuts down the post right away 😀

7) Really the best thing about having cancer is that you suddenly see that certain things around you are very important, like snuggling on the couch with your kids while they tell you all about their hopes and dreams (“Mommy if I was yellow, I would shine all over everything like the sun and make the world happy!”). And certain things aren’t, like worrying whether you look frumpy in the clothes you have on. (I’m bald and tired, but I’m alive – who cares what I look like!)

DSC02033

Advertisements

I may or may not have eaten that star…

On Saturday, my friend Patty and I went to a birthday party for one of our dear friends. Bev is one of those people that has a huge heart, which was evidenced by the number of people at her party. She’s been a huge support to me during my cancer treatment. See, she just celebrated 20 years of being cancer free. Like me, she had breast cancer and had all the same treatments, although she had surgery first and chemo afterward. Like me, she dealt with being sick and being in pain and suffered from neuropathy. As a matter of fact, she suffered from neuropathy in her feet up until a few years back when she had to stay off her feet for 6 weeks after surgery. Somehow, when she was able to walk again, her neuropathy had disappeared. Apparently the time off her feet allowed her nerves to repair themselves after years of dealing with the pain.

She also dealt with all the fears of not being there for her children (she had three young sons at the time), not seeing them grow up and finding who they became. Well, she has now lived long enough to gain a  wonderful husband and 4th son, as well as some daughter-in-laws and beautiful grandchildren. She is truly enjoying her retirement and time with her family. She spends some of her time doing beautiful art work. And she spends some time encouraging people like me to hold my head high and be positive. It has helped me more than she will ever know.

For the birthday party, Bev’s son had served a mexican food bar and as I was scooping some cheesy bean dip, I noticed a shiny purple confetti star had fallen into it and I scooped it onto my plate figuring I’d throw it away later. We had a nice dinner, chatting with Bev’s neighbor and one of her sisters while we ate. When we were done eating, I remembered the star and quickly looked down at my plate. No star. Oops.

“I may or may not have eaten that star,” I exclaimed out loud. Patty laughed. I explained the story with the others at the table with us, who also laughed.

“Well you’ll find out in a day or so,” Patty giggled.

Later on, as we sat in the living room, Bev shared answers to the “Who knows Bev best” quiz that we’d all filled out. One of the questions was how long has Bev been cancer-free?  I knew the answer – 20 years. It is what I hope for – a long future ahead of me to live and dream and hope. When she gave the answer, she told everyone that I was fighting the same fight she had twenty years before, and that in another 20 years she and I would be celebrating together- she 40 years and me 20 years of being cancer free. The first time she’d told me this, I was in the middle of chemo treatments. I was very sick and feeling beaten and unsure. But when she said it again at the party, this time I believed it.

image

This time, I raised my arms and yelled “yes!”. I am starting to feel like I can do this. When I see Bev living such a wonderful life twenty years after going through my same struggles, I began to picture myself twenty years from now – enjoying life, seeing my children grow up, playing with my grandchildren.

For me, getting cancer has been like starting to watch a movie that you know you’ll have to leave before you get to see the ending. What will happen? How will things turn out? How will all the characters feel when the movie does end? I don’t want to leave early! I want to see the characters grow and change and I want to see what they do with their lives. When I spend time with Bev, I begin to feel hopeful that my life can turn out that way too. That someday these struggles will all be behind me and I’ll be able to see all that is in front of me.

On Sunday, though,  I was feeling quite sorry for myself. I do that once in a while. I was trying to sew, one of my loves, and I could barely see to thread the needle from my watery eyes, and I could hardly hold the needle correctly because of the numbness and pain in the tips of my fingers. It made me mad and sad at the same time. I thought how unfair it was. I mean, haven’t I had it bad enough already? Do I have to keep dealing with this crap the rest of my life?

And then I happened to think… the rest of my life… I want a long one. At least longer than this. Twenty years? I’d be 69 then. I’ll gladly take that if that’s all I can get. I’d love more, but 20 years sure beats dying now. Numbness and pain in my fingers and feet? Watery goobery eyes from being irritated? Forgetful chemo brain? Even if my hair never grows back – I’ll take all of it, if I can just live to see the end of the movie.

I think I may have eaten that star – I feel it shining in me. Bev’s star from the celebration of her long life. I’ll take that!

 

Bye-Bye Booby

I met with my surgeon Tuesday for my post-chemo pre-surgery check. He confirmed that he still believes (based on a variety of things, like original size and location of the lump, proximity to skin surface and nipple, etc) that a total mastectomy is the best option for me rather than a simple lumpectomy. I prefer to have the best chance of long term survival and the least chance of recurrence, so I am okay with this.

Please note- a total mastectomy (full removal of one breast) is not to be confused with a bilateral or double mastectomy (full removal of both breasts). Total mastectomy means they will remove all breast tissue down to the chest wall and it will include removal of the nipple and enough skin to make the incision a flat line on a flat surface. Here (warning – clicking this link will take you to photos of breasts) are some representative photos of what it could possibly look like afterward (I’d like to think the photo in there of the woman who has in-shape, nicely formed abdominal muscles – but alas, I’ll look more like the pleasantly plump, saggy ones :/ ).

I do not intend to do reconstructive surgery. I am not really vain enough to care, as you may have already read about in my earlier posts about hair loss and the photo of me on my “About Gina” page. In addition, reconstruction involves taking skin and fat tissue from other parts of your body to place there and then reconstruction of a “nipple” – it takes several surgeries over a long period of time and leaves scars on other parts of your body. No thank you very much! 😉

20150930 Cuddling with two of my little ones

The worst part will be getting used to being lopsided. When I was at Mackinac, a woman came up to me and said she apologized but it was obvious I had cancer and she was curious about what kind. When I told her it was breast cancer she got a big smile and said, “Me too!” She told me she’d had both breasts removed (a bilateral mastectomy- see how my medical vocab lesson came in useful here? 😉 ) and as she pointed to her chest, she said “I can be any size I want! Today I’m an A, but some days I like to be a C!” We both laughed and we shared good luck wishes and a “we are survivors” look. Only someone who’s been through this can understand the solidarity that brings. I am not alone. And there are so many others around me that have survived this.

I have to wait at least one month after chemo to have the surgery so that my body can recover fully from the chemo. Otherwise I may not heal properly (platelets are needed for the blood to clot) and could have a much higher chance of infection if my white blood cell counts (especially neutrophils) have not rebounded to high enough levels.

Seriously, I’m okay with this. I want whatever gives me the greatest chance that cancer will be gone from my body. Them there thangs have always been in my way anyway. Bye-bye booby! 😀