(Really Sour Lemons)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Time of Year... Grant me Strength

October is almost upon us, which means it's also my Cancerversary. September/October are the months of checkups, tests, and scans. And since I hit the big 5-0 back in February, I have the honor of scheduling my first Colonoscopy. (Can I hear a whooop!) I would love to put it off another few years, but with my history, the doctors want it done now.

A few weeks ago I scheduled appointments with my two oncologists (same building, let's make a day of it!) The first was my Radiation Oncologist. She was STOKED about showing me a new diet plan she came up with for me. She had checked all my records, checked my blood tests, read the notes thoroughly, and printed out a several handfuls of pages explaining the new diet that WILL get the weight off. She guarantees. It's the Ketogenic diet, a.k.a. Very Low Carb diet. All of her papers came with research studies and footnotes. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know several people who lost weight on that type of diet and they look and FEEL great. I also know a few who got very sick while going through ketosis. (Basically, you are making your brain and your body run on fat instead of carbs.) I have a lot of research to do because I'm not a "jump in immediately" type of person. I did promise her I would "try" it for a month. ("Try" being the operative word.) Just not this month. Probably not next month. Or November or December. January sucks anyway so maybe I'll try it then LOL. I have a lot of food allergies to deal with, Hashimoto's to think about, food avoidances (like GMO's and pesticides and processed food) but the more I read, it doesn't sound like it should be a huge problem. We shall see. I'll definitely let you know if I try it.

Anyway, the rest of the appointment was awesome. Yeah, boob check. Everything felt fine. Lots of scar tissue at ground zero that causes some discomfort and misshaping, which she says could be released with a surgery (ugh!) or just wait to see when I lose all this weight, boobs might get smaller and it'll be less noticeable. (Plug for VLC diet, yeah?) Everything else checked out fine and I will have to see her one more time next year, and she will be able to formally "release me" from her care. Yay!

The next appointment was the Medical Oncologist, who was thrilled at my mental progress! Yeah, another boob check an hour after the first one (lots of action that day! LOL) and again, he felt nothing unusual or suspect. Blood tests came back good (except for a slightly low MPV -mean platelet volume- which could explain easy bruising, but nothing to worry about.) We talked a bit about LIFE and what's going on in all departments. He did end saying "Wow. You really had a hard time with Tamoxifen, didn't you?" YA THINK? Well, drugs weren't even brought up. So there's that.

My official yearly Mammo and Bone scan was scheduled for November 17th and I was good to go.

So a week and a half later I had another day of two-fer appointments. My General Practitioner for a referral to the Butt doctor for the Colonoscopy and an added request for an endoscopy to check my esophagus. I'm tried of having constant heartburn for the past 15 years. I'm afraid that my esophagus is taking the brunt, as I had difficulty swallowing some food several times when I was in Arizona earlier in August. I want to get this done at the same time. But I am definitely requesting they use a different scope for each end (:-P) I also mentioned my shoulder has been hurting for a couple months and was referred to Ortho. (yay! another Doctor!) I had some shoulder xrays that afternoon too. 

A few hours later I had my annual Gynie appointment (affectionately referred to as my "Vaginacologist" people who have watched the TV show "Raising Hope" will get it?) I won't go into some of the details (you're welcome) but she also did a breast exam. And she was concerned about an area in the left boob (non afflicted one) that felt suspicious. She had me feel it. But honestly, my boobs always feel lumpy and ropey, especially after the breast reduction. But this was way at the top of the boob, near the chest wall. It is a slightly harder spot but it's large, like the size of two finger widths, half a finger long. It can only be felt while lying down, which explains not feeling anything during shower self-exams. But it kinda disappears as I go from laying down to sitting up.

Honestly, I'm not worried. I had two oncologists check me the week before and didn't find anything. And this doctor, while I do like her and find her easy to talk to, is the same one who told me my 7 lb baby had turned to head-down position a week before I delivered her breech. Sooo... She contacted my Medical Oncologist and had him put in an order to move my mammo, and an Ultrasound if needed, up to: ASAP. Which turns out to be September 29th, in a few days.

My brain on anxiety.
I was trying to figure out the difference between worry and anxiety. I am not worried that this is breast cancer again, but I am highly anxious now until I can get that scan to prove me right. This past weekend was rough - despite a very nice "third date" Saturday afternoon ;-) That night, it hit me, the difference between worry and anxiety. Worry is in my head. It's logical. Do I have something to worry about? Not likely. So no worries. For me, anxiety is completely different and came out in the physical. My heart was beating in my throat (PVC's came back after a 10 month hiatus!) It was hard to take a deep breath. Sleeping was difficult. Loss of appetite... all of which makes me cranky and tired and shaky. Hopefully it wills subside after I get results from the mammo/ultrasound. 

I sure can use some good juju at this point. This October I was planning on celebrating on hitting that HUGE milestone for Cancer Survivors - The FIVE YEAR mark. I'm counting on it. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Guest Post by Katherine Keys

Today I have a guest blogger! I would like to introduce you to Katherine Keys, a survivor of Pleural Mesothelioma. Many of you have heard of this type of cancer but did you know that it's one of the few cancers where we actually have an idea of what causes it? Knowing what causes it is both heartbreaking and helpful, and there are places out there that can help with compensation, if you know that your place of work knowingly put you at risk of contacting this disease. Well, I'll let Katherine take over.  For more information about this disease, please visit Mesothelioma.net.

Be on the lookout for an update from me also, I just had my annual oncology exam :-) 

Surviving Mesothelioma by Katherine Keys
Stories of survival are always inspiring. Stories of surviving one of the most aggressive and fatal types of cancer is simply awe-inspiring. Unfortunately not many people can be survivors of this terrible disease. It creeps up on its victims and often only makes itself known after it has reached advanced, incurable stages. Every once in a while, though, someone makes it and that helps others find the strength to fight.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. It affects the lining of tissue that covers most organs in the body, called the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, but the most common type is cancer of the mesothelium around the lungs. This is called pleural mesothelioma and the biggest risk factor for developing it is exposure to asbestos fibers.
Many people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma worked in environments for years in which fibers of this mineral were inhaled through the air. Someone who lived with a person who worked around asbestos for years is also at risk. In many cases people struggling with this type of cancer were not told by employers that they were working in a contaminated environment. This has led to a number of mesothelioma lawsuits and settlements.
Pleural mesothelioma causes symptoms that may include difficulty breathing, a regular and painful cough, pain in the abdomen and under the rib cage, lumps under the skin on the chest, weight loss, and shortness of breath. Most diagnosed cases of pleural mesothelioma are fatal. Patients are usually given treatment options along with a life expectancy.
Why Can’t This Disease Be Cured?
There are a few reasons why most cases of mesothelioma cannot be cured. One is that this is a particularly aggressive type of cancer. It spreads rapidly, which makes it hard to stop. Another issue is that it usually develops after years of exposure to asbestos. The signs and symptoms may not be obvious or uncomfortable enough until the cancer is well advanced. Many people get a diagnosis only after the cancer has reached a late stage.
There are treatments for mesothelioma, which can help people live longer, and which in rare cases may cure the disease. These treatments include surgery to remove cancerous tissue or even an entire lung, chemotherapy and targeted radiation. These treatments have both drawbacks and benefits that must be considered.
Katherine’s Story of Triumph
The story of Katherine Keys is one that all people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma should know about. When diagnosed with the disease she was given a maximum life expectancy of two years, which she decided to beat. Her treatment included the surgical removal of her right lung and mesothelium followed by radiation to target any cancer cells left behind after the surgery.
After regular checkups following her treatment, Katherine discovered that her cancer was in remission. She now only needs to be checked once a year, and although life with one less lung is more challenging, she fought and beat mesothelioma and is expected to live out the rest of her life cancer-free. Katherine shares her story with others to inspire and to give hope. Being resilient and positive are the keys to fighting, surviving, and living a great life after cancer.