Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tagged And Released

There is a strange feeling that comes with being diagnosed with breast cancer through an annual screening.  You are going through life just fine, no symptoms, feeling pretty healthy and in good shape.  Then a doctor tells you you're sick.  It's weird, I won't lie.  Especially as someone who has had clean annual mammograms for years, that they found something this time around has been especially surreal.  If I hadn't seen the mammogram slides, and also seen the white blotch on the ultrasound while it was happening, I might have gone conspiracy theory on my doctors and wondered if they were faking things to make some extra cash.

Thus, I have been going through this whole experience feeling much like an animal that's been plucked from the herd for scientific study.  I confess, I spend more time being resentful of the medical professionals cutting me open and pumping my veins with poison, than listening to the logical side of me that knows they are saving my life.  And it's in that more primitive vein where today, I have been what I call "tagged and released".

Monday, I start 6 weeks of radiation therapy.  Where chemotherapy kills any rogue cancer cells that may have escaped through my blood stream and attached themselves to another part of my body, radiation targets the spot where the cancer first incubated and tries to prevent it from incubating a second time.  To prep for this very targeted therapy, they "measure and mark you".  Though, I prefer the term, "tag and release".  It feels more fitting.

These marks are actual tattoos, designed to give the radiation technicians a guide for where to position me for the therapy.  When I am done with this, I suppose I can have them removed, much like Angelina Jolie removes the names of her ex-husbands from her butt.  Or I could tattoo something over them, like many people do when they opt to cover up history instead of trying to wipe it out.  Knowing me, I will probably just leave them there.  As I mentioned to my husband, when I finally land that gig as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, the photographer can always Photoshop them out.

They are intended to look like moles.  And despite the fact that I have plenty of competing moles that appeared naturally, in addition to new freckles, age spots, stretch marks, and a plethora of other harmless-yet-bizarre skin things that have appeared with age, these little dots have me annoyed today.  I already have scars from the surgery.  I didn't need five of these little dots on my midsection to permanently remind me that, while we've come a long way in medicine, we haven't come all the way.  At a time when I'm still dealing with all the temporary side effects of surgery and chemotherapy, I really didn't need Ink Master to further distort my highly imperfect but comfortably familiar body. 

But that's enough of my pity party.  These are the times when I remind myself that there are millions of people in this world who would love to have my "problems".  It's cliche', but the notion that "it could be worse" really does comfort me.  And this will blow over and be a big non-issue for me very soon.  But today, it was a bit of an annoying way to start my day.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

7/17/17: My Best and Worst Week of 2017

Thursday started out soo good!  After months of battling the physical challenges of chemotherapy, Thursday was the first day I felt I was turning the page and seeing a glimpse of my old self.  I'd gotten a good night's sleep, woke up and stepped on the scale:  Down 2 pounds!  Finally, my effort to get in shape, eat right and lose some weight was beginning to pay off.  I was on the right track.

An hour later I was at the pool swimming and managed something close to my old pre-cancer swim routine.  Can I really get it back??  Yes, I think I can!!

I got home and went for my walk with Al.  Not as much huffing and puffing.  The muscle aches I've been dealing with for weeks had seemed to vanish overnight.  I wasn't 100%, but I felt dang close!  I thought, "How ironic that today is my first post-chemo appointment with my oncologist.  If I'd seen her two days ago, I'd be handing her a laundry list of ailments to complain about.  But like magic, most of them seem to either be gone or greatly improved."

So off I went to St. Joseph Cancer Center that afternoon, bright eyed and happy.  And the appointment itself went well.  She was happy.  I was happy.  She commented that I got through this really well.  She even said something about me being a strong woman through all this.  Which should have been a clue that she was going somewhere with it.  Because her next moves turned my best day into my most devastating day of the year.

Apparently, back in May when I was hospitalized for diverticulitis, they'd found something on the CT scan, something that had nothing to do with breast cancer.  As I was in the middle of chemo at the time, they didn't want to distract and worry me with it, because "It's probably nothing."

Here's the rub:  You can tell a previously healthy person "It's probably nothing," and they will take comfort in that.  But once you've been diagnosed with cancer and dealt with all the tests and treatments, the "It's probably nothing" comment is wired into the brain as "It's going to be something."

The CT scan showed something on my kidneys.  She said they probably were cysts, which are common and don't cause harm.  But more tests are needed to find out for sure.  She said not to worry, but as a person who'd been down this road before with very bad results, this news was absolutely crushing.  I would need an ultrasound, and if that didn't come back definitively, they would order a biopsy.  The biopsy could bring me another cancer diagnosis, but she said, "let's not go there because chances are very very high that they're just cysts".

I walked out of her office stunned, horrified, and seeing history repeat itself before I'd even had a chance to get over the first worst thing that has ever happened to me.

I called my husband from the car and tried not to cry.  He gave me the same "stay positive" assurances he gave me the last time things turned out bad.  He said, "And no matter what, we'll get through it."  And I wondered, "Can we?"  He might be able to.  But if I'm told I need more chemotherapy for a completely different and unrelated cancer, while I'm still bald from the last round.....let's just say, it was the first time in my life I ever considered suicide.

Now, let me pause and mention that I have friends going through much worse than I am right now.  I don't want to disrespect them or the depths of their battles.  I am lucky.  If I have kidney cancer, I should be thanking God that I had cause to find it early.  My five days in the hospital battling breast cancer could have actually saved my life.  I'm not ignorant of that fact.  But Thursday, none of those things left me thankful or comforted.  Remembering it could be worse is what takes you through the treatment when you have to be strong and suck it up.  But when you walk out of the office first hearing another blow, your honest reaction is "I don't want to do this. I don't want to fight this fight--AGAIN!"

So like I did the first time around, I spent most of that afternoon and evening scouring the internet.  I remembered that Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) runs in my family.  Maybe that's what this is. That wouldn't be great, but that's better than malignant tumors.

I broke down that night and cried to Al.  I think it is one of the few times I've cried through this.  I'm not someone who cries often, but Thursday night, I cried over the thought of going through all of this over again.  I just can't.  Not this soon.  I was prepared for maybe years from now.  Maybe there would be another Bad Mammogram, but it wouldn't be NOW, before my hair even had a chance to fill in.  And he said again, "We will get through it.  Whatever it is, we will get through it."


Miracles started happening the next morning when I called radiology.  They had a cancellation and could get me in at lunch time.  If I couldn't make that appointment, they were booked two weeks out.  (TWO WEEKS???)  People who have been through health issues will tell you it's the waiting that does the most damage, so I easily told the woman I would be there.  I would move mountains to have this ultrasound done NOW.  I then did the other best move of my year:  I emailed my primary care physician Dr. Lana Nguyen.

Let me pause once more to tell you about Dr. Nguyen.  She has been our family physician for over 25 years.  She's an OB/GYN/GP, which means she not only delivered our son, but has been our family doctor "in old school terms".  The person you talk to, not just about health matters, but what's going on in your life and things like that.  I consider her a member of our family.  She has seen us through our most challenging days.  She's the woman who had to deliver the bad news about my breast cancer.  But I cherish that the news came from her.  She's the right "fit" for me, she communicates in a language I understand and relate to.  So when I was in total distress over this, I emailed her and asked her if we could talk.  I was devastated by this news, terrified of what might be the results, and needed to talk to someone. I sent off that email and went to get the ultrasound.

And then I waited.

The lab technician told me the results would probably be sent to my doctors on Monday so I should be hearing from them Monday or Tuesday.  Gotta love tests taken right before a goddamn weekend.  And this was going to be a horrible weekend of repressed fear and worry.  So I tried to put it out of my head, knowing that it would be at least 3 days before this nightmare either started or ended.

And then, at 4:37 p.m. on Friday the phone rang.  It was Dr. Nguyen.

There are two things Doc Lana has said to me that are burned in my memory forever.  The first was when she called to tell me Bad Mammogram was cancer.  She'd asked, "Are you sitting down?"  The second was Friday at 4:37 when she said, "I've got good news for you."

As she told it, she'd been sitting at her desk, thinking about how to respond to my email with reassurances that would get me through the weekend, when her assistant plopped the ultrasound results on her desk.

The cysts are just cysts.  I don't have malignant kidney tumors.  I don't need biopsies or more tests or treatment or agony.  They are common cysts that many people have and I am fine.


Here is the post-cancer new normal.  In the past, I was pretty good about not stressing over screenings and tests.  I always kept it positive.  And why wouldn't I?  I've never been really sick.  Neither has anyone in my immediate family.  I come from "good stock" as you'd call it.  Short of an accident, nothing horrible ever happens to people who come from good stock.

But this endeavor with breast cancer has changed that, and has changed it for good.  The days of shrugging off health scares are behind me, and that really sucks.  Because we all know that health scares involve tests, and waiting for results, and trying to go on with life while waiting for a call that might change your life for the worse.  Some people can just give that up to God with a "It will be what it will be" attitude.  And I genuinely admire those people.  That takes strength, don't ever think otherwise.  And that is something I plan to work on developing within myself.


I'm a control freak.  I don't like the unknown.  I don't like living without a plan.  And for 55 years, I've managed to hang on to that way of life.  But I also know that inner strength, peace, and true happiness comes from learning how to let each and every day unfold as it will.  We don't get to go to sleep every night with answers.  And we can't rely on answers to bring us a good night's sleep.

So my kidney scare is yet another life lesson I am being handed in 2017.  Spiritualists like Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle call it "living in the present", a way of thinking that takes schooling and practice.  For sure, it's something I need to practice more as time progresses, as facing mortality is something we do more of as we age, not less. 

There is a saying, "Old age isn't for the weak, but it sure beats the alternative."  No truer words have been spoken!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Way Back, One Step At A Time

Mother's Day 2017, I'm smack in the middle of 12 weeks of chemotherapy.  I told my son that, as a Mother's Day gift, I'd love a box of Sees candy.  Instead, he bought me a Fitbit.

Now, before you pass judgment on that move, full disclosure:  He knew his dad had already bought me the box of candy.  The Fitbit was his very thoughtful and sincere attempt at finding an alternative I would like.  Unfortunately, what he didn't know is that I've been personally rebelling against any device like a Fitbit since these things hit the market several years ago.

The problem with me is I don't like to be told what to do.  Insinuate, in any way, that the 5,000 steps I walked today isn't good enough, and tomorrow I'll only walk 2,500 steps just to remind you who's in control of my life.  Thus, when people tout Fitbits as awesome because they "let me know when I didn't move enough today", my first thought is, that's the worst device I could possibly own.

But I'm a mom, my kid went through the expense and trouble of thinking up a gift for me.  And it was me who had been saying all year that once I'm past this cancer treatment, I'm getting my shit together, losing weight and getting in shape.  I said it, he listened.  He'd made sure the Fitbit was water proof and equipped to track swimming, my most favorite exercise.  And for the cherry on top, he'd bought it in "breast cancer pink" as a symbolic reminder of why I need to stay motivated.  In the ball park of thoughtful gifts, the kid had just hit a walk-off home run.  Responding with, "I've always hated the idea of these things" would have been cruel and downright irresponsible as a parent.  So I just smiled, hugged and thanked him, then promised to check it out "once I was done with my chemotherapy".

Well, today I am 9 days past my last infusion.  I had originally decided to give myself two full weeks of sitting around, eating poorly and feeling sorry for, I mean "healing"....before engaging in any get-healthy diet and exercise plan.  But honestly, I'm too sick of being sick to sit around for that long.  Even though my final round of chemo isn't technically over, I'm anxious to start taking back as much of my old life as my body will allow.  So three days ago, I started back with the morning walks.  Yesterday, I purged the house of the junk food and filled the fridge with fruits and vegetables.  And today, I opened the box to my Fitbit.

I have to say it is pretty cool.  I may be someone who hates to be told what to do, but I'm also a sucker for gadgets and technology.  When it comes to the Fitbit, the latter may actually win out.  I also didn't realize it had diet and weight tracking which I have used in the past with apps like SparkPeople and Weight Watchers.  That is a big bonus.  I've set it up for swimming, and am curious to see exactly how much activity this thing records.  Will I get credit for gardening or walking around the office? There are days when I'm up and down a lot.  And exactly how does it know when I'm moving and when I'm not?  I guess those are things I will find out now that I've got this thing set up and on my wrist.

SO ready or not, here I go in search of a new me.  I'm starting slow and steady with modest goals that take into account my current limitations.  And if those prove too hard, I'll set them back a little more.  It doesn't matter much to me where my starting point is, but just that I'm starting.  And that's a really good feeling!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The First Rays of Light

Today is my last chemotherapy infusion. It marks the first positive thing that I can associate with this experience since it all started three days before Christmas, 2016.

It is not the end, by any means. I'll spend the next few weeks feeling crummy and tired. I may lose the last of this peach fuzz on my head and these ever-thinning eyebrows. My energy will be zapped, and just a simple walk will feel like I'm climbing a mountain. 

But unlike the last three treatment cycles, once these after-effects begin to wear off and I start feeling better, it will be for good.  No more looming smack-downs.  No more little voices in my head saying, "Umm, yeah.  Don't get too excited about feeling good today, because that will end soon."  With this cycle I can finally do what I haven't been able to do all year:  Look forward and start to heal.

From the moment I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, our lives have been consumed by the present.  We wait for test results, focus on surgery, on my treatment plan, our next doctor's appointment, the next test.  I worried they'd recommend chemo, and I cried and stressed when they did.  Should I do it?  How bad will it be?  What will it do to my body?  How will my day-to-day life be altered?  Can I work?  Can I go out and do things?  How will this affect my family?  It's stressful and all-engrossing.  And embarking on chemotherapy is like walking through a long, dark tunnel.  Many times I stood in the middle, not able to see light at either end and wondered if I'd made the right choice to do it.  But once you enter that tunnel, you can't go back.  You have to just keep moving in the direction you started, feeling your way along clammy cold walls and trusting the people who promise it's the right path and that there really will be light at the other end.

Today, I finally see that glimmer of light up ahead.  The relief is overwhelming.

There's more to do.  I will have radiation next and hormone treatment after that.  But more than one oncologist has told me this period is the worst of it.  I'm at the summit, and once I complete this round, it's all down hill by comparison.  Finally, I can do something I haven't done since this year started, and that is to start focusing on the future with hope, relief, and a determination to make some positive changes in my life.

Today is a good, good day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why Me?!

It's not a question I dwell on.  I tend to be the type of person who focuses more on what I'm going to do about a situation than why something happened in the first place.  But when faced with a cancer diagnosis, it's impossible not to at least briefly ponder the question, "Why Me?"

There is no history of cancer in my family.  Not prevalent, at least.  And statistically, 70% of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of it.  That alone is a scary thought.  Then add to it the constant bombardment of information about cancer-fighting foods, cancer-causing foods, our environment, plastics, GMOs, hormones, carcinogens....the list is endless.  Put it together and any reasonable person would, at some point, wonder if they've done something to bring this upon themselves.  Yet when I asked my oncologist that very question, her answer was a quick and decisive, "No.  It's just the luck of the draw".

Unless you believe in giant conspiracies, it's hard to reconcile those two.  How can there be so much advice, legislature and information about cancer-causing everything, yet when you get it, your oncologist tells you it's just a random thing and you're just unlucky?  It was my own physician who said that cancer is often a "three strikes you're out" kind of thing.  Most of the time, one thing in and of itself will not give you cancer.  It's usually a combination of genetics, family history, lifestyle, age that come together to create that perfect storm.  And logically, that makes sense to me.

The type of cancer I have feeds on estrogen.  It's the most common type of breast cancer, particularly for women my age, right around menopause, when hormones are shaking things up.  Couple that with being overweight for the last 10 years--another thing that raises the estrogen levels in your body--and that's probably two of my strikes right there.  But what about the third?

Though I can't find definitive scientific evidence of this, I do have my own theory.  And it has to do with over 30 years of birth control.

I started on birth control pills at the age of 18, and stayed on them until I was 30.  At that time, because I smoked, my doctor took me off them due to the high risk of heart attack when combining birth control and cigarettes after the age of 30.  It wasn't a big deal as I had been married a while and we were starting to mumble about eventually getting around to being parents.  And four years later, my son was born.  After his birth, however, I wasn't keen on getting pregnant again, and needed something better than the diaphram and "good luck timing" we were relying on before.  That's when my doctor told me about Depo Provera.

Depo Provera is another hormone-based form of birth control that is still around today.  I loved it.  You go in for a shot every 13 weeks and forget about it.  It stops your periods (BONUS!), has virtually no side effects (for me, at least), and did not carry the same heart attack warnings of traditional birth control pills.  With no reason to stop, I stayed on Depo Provera for 18 years, up until I turned 52, which was the age my doctor typically liked to take women off it.

And two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At first, I hadn't considered a connection, until I started seeing things about my type of cancer being caused by hormone replacement therapy.  In fact, the risk of breast cancer is so high that doctors don't even treat women with hormone therapy unless the case is extreme.  So I started looking up Depo Provera, and what I found on the internet was a lot of contradicting information.  One study found that Depo Provera raises the risk of breast cancer by something like 200%.  It also said that risk remains high within 5 years of stopping the injections. However, that study is considered controversial and other studies show Depo Provera has no impact on breast cancer at all.  In fact, you can still walk into your doctor's office and get the Depo shot for birth control.

I asked my surgeon about it and he reiterated what I'd read:  That there is a debate, and right now, no one knows for sure.  In defense of Depo, it is not an estrogen-based hormone.  But it is a hormone.  And when someone has been adding artificial hormones to her body for almost 30 years, you have to wonder.  Add to that a diet that includes a lot of hormone-fed animal products.  In my perpetual effort to drop 50 lbs, I've been stuck on a high-protein, low-carb diet seemingly forever.   And with a boy at home that won't eat anything that didn't once "moo", our dinners have been centered around meat and chicken for a long time.

So there you have this intersection of many different things all coming together to put me in this spot.  At least in theory.  Decades of hormone-based birth control, a diet filled with too much hormone-fed animal products, a BMI too high, and an age that is ripe for developing breast cancer.  I may be wrong.  It could be just the luck of the draw that my oncologist says it is.  But if I were to lay odds on lifestyle choices that may have played a part, that would be it.

It may sound surprising, but there is actually comfort in thinking that I had somehow contributed to my situation.  You see, if you believe you did it, then you can undo it.  It's a matter of control versus no control.  And if you know me, you know I always opt for control.  I am, after all, the person who stupidly said a mere 4 weeks before my diagnosis:  "Man, I need a health scare to whip me into shape [to eat better, exercise more and lose weight]."  Yes, I really did say that.  I will never say it again!

On the Depo front, even the controversial study included some positive news.  It found that the increased risks taper off after a few years off of the shots. So even if that study is later supported by more research, it seems I haven't sunk myself for life.  And in the meantime, when I am watching daytime TV and hearing those class action lawsuit commercials (mesotheleoma anyone?) I will keep my ears peeled on the topic of Depo Provera.  You can bet that!

But short of that, it's where the "Why Me?" pondering ends.  In my opinion, the best way to ruin a life is to spend too much time obsessing over what might of been.  And I have no interest in doing that.  But these are definitely things that will shape my future.

Next Thursday is my last chemotherapy treatment, and I can't wait.  Not only because chemo sucks and I'm officially sick of being sick.  But I am looking forward to getting this treatment behind me so I can start really focusing on what my post-cancer life will look like.  I intend for it to be a healthier one.  Hey, I asked for that health scare, I got it, so I better damn well do something with that. But even if losing weight, eating a more plant-based diet, eating clean, exercising more and building up my strength doesn't prevent me from getting cancer again, it will definitely improve the quality of my life in between.

I can also attest that if you are faced with having to go through cancer treatment, the healthier you are going in, the easier it will be on your body to get through it.  Trust me on that.  It's a win-win no matter what.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Down, One To Go

I just finished my third infusion, and knowing that I only have to do this one more time is the second best feeling, behind never having to come back!

The upside of this visit was talking to a different oncologist (mine is on vacation). Not that I think one is better than the other, but it's nice to hear things from different professionals.  Sometimes they state things differently, they might throw in something the other guy never mentioned, etc.

For one thing, after telling him about the horrible aches, headaches and migraines I got from the booster shot they gave me last time, he is switching me to another booster which doesn't hit you with it all at once. Instead of one big shot that is supposed to take you through two weeks, I'll get 7 little shots over 7 days.  They will also monitor my reaction to them, and if I am in bad shape, they feel I can quit them after as few as 3.  That is a really, really great thing, and I'll tell you why:

Chemo infusions are kinda like getting into some sort of accident where you are injured and feeling horrible for days and then, thankfully, you recover. The difference when it comes to chemo is that you know what day that accident will happen. It's the dread and anticipation that is almost as bad as the experience itself. So even if this switch in booster shots doesn't improve my situation, today, it is giving me the hope that it might not. I don't know it will be bad, and not knowing is a bonus I'll take.

As a side note to this, I will add that after each infusion, I've been keeping a daily log of what I ate, how I'm feeling, how I slept, etc.  This has been a HUGE help, and if you ever find yourself going through something like this, DO IT.  I'd logged the first week after my last infusion then put the log away the moment I started feeling better.  When I picked it up today before my appointment, I realized how much I had forgotten.  Without it, I would have told the oncologist that "I just had one bad night of migraines."  The log helped me remember that I didn't have one bad night of migraines.  I had 5 days of aches and pains, headaches bad enough to keep me out of work for 3 days, a bad heartburn-like feeling in my sternum which they think was caused by the booster, and a slew of other things I'd quickly wiped out of my memory banks.  I'm not sure if the doctor would have recommended the change in booster if I hadn't been keeping this log and had understated my reaction (it's amazing how quickly we erase bad experiences from our memory once we are past them).  So if you are ever in a situation like this, log, log, log!

The second thing he did was reaffirm what I've been told many times, but I just need to keep hearing it again from as many people as possible, especially oncologists who do this every day. He confirmed that yes, chemo really is the worst of all my treatments when it comes to fatigue and feeling like my body is 80 years old, and the fitness I'd worked so hard to build up is all gone, and I'll have to start from square one when I'm done, and...and.... Like so many of my wonderful friends have reminded me, it is TEMPORARY. And more to the point, I really will bounce back more quickly after this than it took me to build up the fitness in the first place. I will help myself to keep walking and swimming on days that I can, even if it's depressing and hard.  But I will keep up with it for that goal of bouncing back faster at the end.

Hearing that (AGAIN) made me happy. It all made me happy.

So here we go. Infusion day and the day after I'm always feeling good because I'm amped on steroids. The train will hit me over the weekend, and I'm hopeful this time, it's just a little Thomas The Tank train instead of high speed rail.   Today's doctor joked, "We learn from every infusion, so I'm confident that by Infusion 4 [my last] we'll have this nailed."  Haha

But no matter how this goes: I'VE ONLY GOT ONE MORE TO GO!!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Battling Fatigue

Before I started chemotherapy, my morning exercise routine was to get up early, head off to the gym to enjoy a 30 minute swim.  Once home, I'd follow that up with a 1.5 mile walk with my husband.  I did this without much effort.  In fact, before my cancer diagnosis, I was thinking I needed to add something more challenging to my regime.

Boy, have things changed.

I learned the hard way that swimming and walking are an either/or choice now.  I tried to do both a while back and barely made it through the day, I was so tired and exhausted.  And it's only gone down hill since then.  Lately, I've skipped the pool and opted for the walk with my husband, and increasingly, even that has become hard.  Though it's just an easy walk through our neighborhood, I huff and puff as if I were climbing Mt. Tam.  And when I get home, I'm making a bee-line to my office chair to get off my feet and rest.

Today, I went for a swim instead, and it's as if 5 years of swimming fitness is gone.  I'd gone back to the easier swim routine I did when I first started at the pool, and even that was a challenge.

And it's not just exercise. This long Memorial Day weekend, I felt good enough to take on the project of creating a decorative area for the fountain my husband bought me for my birthday.  I spent two days making the wooden backdrop for this and putting together the plants.  Hubby did all the hauling and placing of the stone pavers--I knew better than to even try to help.

While I love the outcome and enjoyed getting out and "being my old self" for a couple days, I definitely paid the price.  I spent Memorial Day in my recliner, barely getting up to take a shower, and I was still tired and beat on Tuesday.

It definitely feels as though my days of being fit and active are behind me, which is an extremely depressing thought.

My oncologist continues to tell me that all this is temporary, but my psyche doesn't believe it.  Chemotherapy has knocked me on my ass, and I know that fatigue is the primary side effect of the radiation therapy that comes next.  I've also read that the hormone therapy that will follow radiation therapy for me can also drag you down.  Add all this up and I will be over 60 years old before I'm done with all this cancer treatment--and that's if the cancer doesn't come back.  Now, I know that 60 is hardly considered old these days, but when you're 55 and already feeling like your body is 80, thoughts of finally getting my energy back after the Big 6-0 does little to perk my spirit.

So is there an upside to all this?  I really don't like putting up a post that serves no purpose other than to bitch and gripe about my situation.  So in the spirit of ending on a high note, I need to remind myself that all won't be as bleak as it seems today.  Most people who went through it all say that radiation is far less taxing on the body than chemotherapy, and I hope that is my experience also.  I'm only at the 1/2 way mark through chemo (something that feels more daunting than good right now), but after my last infusion, I will have 6 weeks off before I start radiation.  I'm hopeful that I can start some sort of recovery in that 6 week period, and that any recovery I do accomplish won't get wiped out once I start rads.  Unfortunately for me right now, only time is going to tell!