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Comparison

Comparison.  I feel like everyone says that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but everyone does it, especially in the age of social media and the constant sharing of all of life’s details.  I know I struggle with comparison, especially when it comes to the stories of others in the cancer community.  It’s all too easy to look at someone’s Instagram and see them on vacation or whatever and wonder what I am doing wrong that I don’t get to go on a two-week exotic vacation.

Then sometimes I can find myself jealous of those who have reached point that perhaps resembles something closer to normal.  I get jealous of those who only have to do to the doctor every so often.  I get jealous of people who get to do things that I never wanted to do because it is a reminder of something that cancer took from me.

So how do I deal with it?  I practice a lot of mindfulness and try to be present in my moment and not put myself into the highlights of someone elses story.  I also remind myself that everyone has something, whether or not they’ve had cancer, everyone has something that they compare to someone elses story.  Finally, the best way I’ve found to deal with comparison is to take more ownership of my story.  Whether or not anyone else ever reads this post or likes my latest Instagram I find the more I share my story both in real life and in the digital world it helps lessen the feelings of doubt and jealousy that come with comparison.

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Meditation

The other day I had come home from somewhere and just completely lost my shit. These past few weeks have been filled with appointments and tests and I had had enough and the stress just had to come out of my eyeballs crying tears over something so insignificant at the time I can’t remember what it was. But at the time it had me worked up and I decided I just needed to meditate. I needed to sit and just be with my emotions at that moment. And by being present and putting space between me and my thoughts I found the perspective I needed to calm down and move on with my day.

I felt the need to write about this as a reminder to myself that when times get to be too much I always have the breath that I can return to, that I can meditate for just one minute and realize that thoughts are just thoughts and mean nothing. And this is important because they say managing stress is good for cancer survivors and overall health and for me meditation is the cheapest, easiest form of stress relief there is.

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Chemo

A few weeks ago marked one year since I finished chemo. Six rounds of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta every three weeks and I was done. I was trying to think of what I wish I had known before I started and the first thing that came to mind was to start hydrating days in advance of infusion day. Dehydration was a struggle for me, having to go in twice for IV fluids. There where days where I struggled to drink and eating just wasn’t happening. What I later learned is that most breast cancer patients gain weight during chemo, I lost 20 pounds. For the most part what they told me about chemo in “chemo class” was true. It’s effects are definitely cumulative and run the same same course over each round, which was nice in a way because it added a little routine to the chaos of treatment.

What they didn’t tell me was just how horrible things would taste, I quit drinking coffee and anything with caffeine because it tasted like I was chewing on metal. They didn’t tell me either that some side effects may not show up until months after I finished chemo like when my fingernails started to split and pop instead of being lost during chemo like I had read about so many people experiencing. I guess too what they didn’t tell me is just how powerful the chemo is and how it can so quickly impact other parts of your body. Somewhere around the third or fourth round I experienced some heart troubles and learned about ejection fraction, which has to do with how effectively your heart pumps. I also got to add another doctor to my roster after seeing a cardiologist because my heart rate would get so crazy just sitting in a chair.

Thinking back on it now though, I think the thing that I don’t think I could have understood until I experienced it myself was just how powerful chemo is. Yes, I knew I would lose my hair and it would attack fast growing cells but never did I think it would be so fast that I could see how effectively the chemo was working. My tumor was in a position where it was visible without having to feel around for it and after the just the first round of chemo it shrank so much that it was no longer visible. My oncologist looked at and said “holy crap.” In a way, I think it was the first time in my cancer battle where I truly felt I was going to be ok, because I could see just how well the chemo was working. And that my doctors knew what they where doing.

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Test beget tests

Tests beget tests. That’s what I keep reminding myself. The truth though is besides from being tired of all the testing and scared of the possibility that they might find something, I’m really just angry and frustrated. I know it’s all to be through and for the sake of my future but at what point do I get a break? For almost the last 18 months it’s been one thing after another. Everyone keeps telling me things will calm down but every time I think I might be approaching that point another test begets tests. I want so badly to put a close to this chapter of my story but the truth is I’m just not there yet. And I can’t compare my story to others. I just have to have hope and faith that the tests all return desirable results.

Me waiting for a CT scan last week

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Reflection on 2017

I’ve never been one to really reminisce at the end of the year but I realized the other day that hasn’t been any typical year. In 2017, I finished chemo, had two surgeries, eight weeks of physical therapy, 33 days of radiation, and finished a year of herceptin treatments. Add in the countless appointments, scans, and ultrasounds, and I’m exhausted. But I survived and I’m coming out of it all a stronger person. And I’m thankful, I’m thankful for it all because it’s all to make sure I get to continue to live.