A year in my life, from the day I was diagnosed and for the full year after. Walk with me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 150 Tamoxifen

I'm not comparing it to Chemotherapy or Radiation and, honestly, I am grateful to have this drug available to keep me cancer free but Tamoxifen has been a bitch.

For the first month I felt very little, so when I started raging I thought I was really mad.  But I wasn't, not really anyway.  It was turbo boosted PMS resulting from my chemically induced change of life.  The effect has been staggering and I believe anyone who knows me has seen me act very differently.  Normally easy going, I am now perpetually anxious.  My flash point is ridiculously low and I try to stay silent so I don't say anything angry that I don't mean...or worse what I DO mean.  Silent is not my normal way of being, normally I am loud and outspoken with a fairly good sense of humor and I don't recognize this new person who is wearing my skin and vibrating with umbrage.

A good thing I'm being silent too, because I often stumble over words and forget what it was I was saying.  The funny things I would say before die just above my epiglottis.  My intelligence along with my libido has tanked.  I am dulled.

Fatigue is also one of Tamoxifen's gift, but I can't sleep (see above.)  Ambien, despite my attempts to sleep without it remains my evening's hero.  The oxytocin released by my old breasts is no longer being released and my mood has darkened as I have become more and more a neuter.

This weekend I met a man who has recently been separated from his wife of many years.  She is a 4 year breast cancer survivor on Tamoxifen; he says it changed everything about her.  He looked sad when he said it.  I am sure whatever fissure there was between them became a chasm and that frightens me.

Cancer treatments are never easy.  I am clear that not everyone has the same side effects, and my DOnc says I might habituate to this fall out.  In the meanwhile he has doubled my antidepressant.  While many women have had success with all sorts of creams, since my tumors are completely estrogen/progesterone receptor positive I cannot use them.  What I can use is gratitude, which has been my buoy for decades and I cling to it now like a shipwreck victim.

I am grateful for Tamoxifen, and the years it has given me.  I will make the very best of them in spite of their unique and unforeseen difficulties.  Many cultures maintain that women's power becomes manifest after her change of life and I am sure that is what is happening to me right now; those blank spaces in my mind are places to be filled by new knowledge and ways of thinking; I am grateful for this change because it enlivens and challenges me.  I am grateful for all of the women who have moved forward from here and left a trail for me to follow.  I know I will make it and that I am not alone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 139 Laugh Dammit

I shamelessly play the cancer card while reclining in my overstuffed La Z Boy.  Can you walk the dogs?  I don't want to watch the military channel, I wanna watch America's Got Talent.  Can you put my empty bowl in the dishwasher, and then vacuum and clean my bathroom?  Please, I have caaaancerrrrrrr.

And then we laugh.  Even through the grey funk of my post treatment depression and medically induced "change of life" we cackle and hoot because life is good and cancer is occasionally funny.  As I recover from, and exist through my treatment I lean heavily on my sense of humor to pull me through those moments of physical discomfort and menopause induced disorientation.  My daughter thinks my seriously lowered IQ is hilarious and my husband takes a perverse pleasure in being the one who is right most of the time.  When people call to cry and gnash their teeth over my predicament my husband answers the phone and then acts like he's actually going to let them speak to me, just to seen my horrified reaction.    Cancer is a grim thing, doing it with humor takes panache.

Though there is no scientific evidence that humor effects cancer cells in any way it does effect other important things, like your mental health and feelings of well being, without the ability to laught at it, life as a cancer patient can really suck.  I take every opportunity to laugh at cancer and every bit of what follows.  Here's something I found while searching for funny cancer shirts.  I hope I got the author right 'cause it's one of my favorites.

Top 11 Ways to Know You are A Cancer Survivor
by Emily Hollenberg, 4-year breast cancer survivor
11. Your alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. and you're glad to hear it.
10. April 15th is still a great day.
9. Your mother-in-law invites you to lunch and you just say NO.
8. You're back in the family rotation to take out the garbage.
7. When you no longer have an urge to choke the person who says, "all you need to beat cancer is the right attitude."
6. When your dental floss runs out and you buy 1000 yards.
5. When you use your toothbrush to brush your teeth and not comb your hair.
4. You have a chance to buy additional life insurance but you buy a convertible instead.
3. Your doctor tells you to lose weight and do something about your cholesterol and you actually listen.
2. When your biggest annual celebration is again your birthday, not the day you were diagnosed.
1. When you use your Visa card more than your insurance card.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 128 Unveiling

Yesterday the family travelled like a gypsy caravan to unveil Lee Lee's grave marker.  It's hard to believe that it's been a year since she passed away, her absence has left a big hole in the fabric of our clan and her memory is a blessing.  She would be pleased that all of her boys were there, along with their wives.  My husband was her first grandchild, and my children her first great grandchildren and we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

We gathered around the wrapped marker, next to her husband who preceded her.  The weather was cloudy which is a blessing in the steaming southern summer.  We wasted no time knowing the sun was only temporarily foiled.  As one we began the blessings, while we removed the cover from her simple stone, something breathtaking happened.  A single monarch butterfly flew across the cemetery and landed on the headstone and then took a short hop to Lee Lee's grave and landed.  During the service it just stood there, occasionally flapping it's wings.  It wasn't until we were saying Kaddish, which affirms our love for G.d and concludes the service that the butterfly took off again.

My daughter, who has recently taken up photography, was livid that she didn't have her camera and we had to assure her that some events aren't meant to be captured on film, but are held in our hearts permanently.