crop 9

After all of the things I’ve had to do to get through my breast cancer diagnosis in 2002, I would be lying if I said that I was not getting tired. Especially since just when I thought I was done with all of the surgeries (I had twenty since my diagnosis), I found out that I would have to have three more this year. Two are pretty simple medical procedures but, I am scheduled for a double hernia and an old-fashioned (not laparoscopic) total hysterectomy in January.

I had the first of the two smaller medical procedures yesterday and, because I’m “special”, although we didn’t expect to find anything but a thickened uterine wall that would have to be dealt with, there were three large polyps that will have to be removed in the hospital in the next few weeks. Now, luckily, I had a biopsy of the uterine wall the day the sonogram showed the thickening because my kind doctor took pity on me when I started crying, so the chances of those polyps and the rest of the tissue that was taken yesterday being malignant is small since the original biopsy of part of the wall that was removed was benign. But, it led me to have to have another procedure to remove them. In addition, it caused me to have to set up the total hysterectomy because one of the side effects of the only medication I can be on while I am pre-menopausal to prevent the cancer I had from ever coming back is an increased risk of uterine cancer.

As it is, I have already been on the drug three years over the standard of care because, despite the chemo, radiation, Lupron and the drug I’ve been on (tamoxifen), my body refuses to go into menopause. Many women lose their periods after the rigorous chemotherapy I had and, if not, they lost it after being on tamoxifen for two or three years. I believe I am the only woman my oncologist has had who has had to deal with a patient who was still getting regular periods even after ten years of Tamoxafin. After much discussion at my check up after I had been on the drug for ten years, we decided I would stay on it rather than put myself into surgical menopause at only 43 since the only side effect I had ever had was a fifteen pound weight gain. The other effects are much worse; blood clots and, as I mentioned, an increased risk of getting uterine cancer. From years one to ten, the increased risk is small but, there is no data on whether the risk increases after ten years hence, the yearly sonogram that found the uterine wall thickening.

Now, although I hate the fact that I have to take this medication every day (with a baby aspirin to prevent the blood clotting risk referred to above), there was no way I was not going to do anything to be proactive in my cancer not returning. Especially since, like I said, I seem to be “special” and many times, my body does things that go against the “norm”. I wasn’t thrilled about the weight gain, either, which happened just as they said it would (think of it as being permanently in a state of “period bloat”) but, fifteen pounds, to me, was certainly worth my life. There are many women who don’t take the tamoxifen solely due to the weight gain and, I’m sorry to say that I personally know one of those women who is no longer with us. After ten years, you are technically considered “cured” and many people then go about their lives without any treatment but, I’m not taking any chances. I’m so blessed to have so many people in my life who love me and I would never want to be taken from their lives, on top of the fact that I have way too much living, and laughing, to do. Trust me, though, every morning, when I put those little pills in my mouth, it is a reminder that I had cancer. How nice it would be if I could just put it all behind me. Sigh.

So, I am having the surgery to remove the polyps soon and then, will have the total hysterectomy in January. On top of that, due to the cancer reconstruction surgeries I had, I have developed two hernias that need to be removed before they are able to do damage to other organs. I’ve already had to have one hernia surgery for the same reason, back in 2005 and, although it was not one of my longest (12 hours took that record) or even one of the hardest (one time I came home with 8 drains and had I don’t even know how many stitches – how many hundreds), it was the surgery with the hardest recovery. You see, where the hernias are happen to be the very center of my gravity so, I cannot shower, drive, lift, laugh hard, sit up without pain, etcetera for ten to twelve weeks. If you know me, you know that I am fiercely independent and having to have someone drive me anywhere I have to go, having to have my sisters help me wash my hair, having to sit at the edge of the bathtub and wash myself (which takes an excruciating amount of time) and having to have people help me with my work just sucks. However, it is something, for my health, that I will do.

So, I am getting tired, for sure. I’m tired in my heart, I’m tired in my mind and I’m tired in my body.  I’m sick of being afraid of anesthesia (how long will my luck hold out) and I’m sick of feeling fat and unattractive. I’m sick of being scared of test results (because I’m “special” – remember?) Just last summer, I had some symptoms that caused me to have a colonoscopy. Everyone said that at my age, I would be fine. They wouldn’t find anything. Well, they did. Six polyps, all different in size, that is very unusual for a woman in their forties. Now, I’m so glad I had it (and will have to have one once a year for a while) because I will probably not die of colon cancer. They will find the polyps early and remove them before they become cancerous. But, still – really?? On top of it, because of the fact that I have a recurrent staph infection because of one of the surgeries (that one caused me to have a blood transfusion and sepsis), I am unable to do any type of strenuous exercise. It causes my immune system to dip and the staph infection to rear its ugly head. Because of this, I also feel weak.

I was feeling sorry for myself yesterday when I woke up from the procedure and was told that because the polyps were big and “broad based”, I would have to have another procedure in the hospital, and soon. It couldn’t have just been a thickening of the wall that could be cleaned up. No. Because it’s me. And, I know that the doctor told me that she is not worried about malignancy because of the prior biopsy she did but, come on, it’s always there, in the back of your mind, once you have a cancer diagnosis. And, I know I’m beating a dead horse here but, things that doctors don’t expect from other patients seem to happen with me.

I came home and was crampy and exhausted. I texted the people who had been texting me, or who knew I was having the procedure and then, collapsed into bed. I slept pretty much twenty-four hours between the procedure and now. Unfortunately, I had to take a shower and now, doubt I will be able to sleep at all tonight. The cramping has gotten better, though so, that’s good. Paulie Walnuts is with me and we will just stay up cuddling and probably watching “The Sopranos”.

I know that this blog has been pretty technical up to this point and, it was necessary. It was necessary because of what I’m about to say next.

Yes, I’m tired but, I’m still here and going strong. I had a Fourth of July party with sixty of my closest family and friends there and we had such a great time. We laughed so much that my belly hurt the next day. I will go to Florida in October with old friends for our annual Halloween Horror Nights get together. Again, we will laugh and laugh and take so much joy in being together. I am taking a second trip to Aruba with my very best friend in December. We will just lay on floats in the water all day, watch the sunset, and then, go party in the small town. We will laugh, and dance, and talk about old times. We have forty-three years of memories so, we never run out of things to talk about.  We fall into bed, very late, tan, rested, slightly inebriated and completely happy. Then, in April, two of my favorite people in the world are getting married in Vegas and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. A Disney/Universal Family vacation will take place soon after. I can’t wait to see the looks on my nephew’s faces when I see them meet Mickey and Minnie and the Minions. I can’t wait to be on the corniest ride in the world “It’s a Small World” and I can’t wait to go on the roller coasters with my sons and brother in-laws. I always put my head back on those rides, and let the wind whip my hair around and breathe in the air and think “I am living.”

You see, there are lots of scary and hard things in my life but, I try to fill the other space, when those scary things are not happening, with as much love, laughter and joy as I possibly can. I think it’s very important to always have things to look forward to. That’s why I have so many parties; game nights, Rangers parties, holiday parties, BBQs. Sure, my core group is BIG and it’s a lot of work but, I wouldn’t change it for the world. People tell me I’m crazy but, they just don’t understand. These are the moments that keep me going. These are the things that turn the exhaustion into happiness and, most importantly, hope.

Unfortunately, I have a couple of friends who were recently diagnosed with cancer and they have long roads ahead of them but, I’m hoping they read this. Cry when you have to, it’s normal to be scared, it’s perfectly okay to feel like it’s not fair that this is happening to you but, be sure to remember that the reason you are going through all the treatment to make you well so that you can LIVE and not just exist. If you can survive this – and you can – I feel that it is not only a good thing to be happy for your soul but, that it is your responsibility to be happy. God kept you around for a reason. For me, I feel that one of those reasons is to try to inspire others who are going through really tough times to be grateful when you get through those times. To show others that although life is hard, there is so much joy to be had.

My mom used to say , when someone famous would die suddenly, that she never thought she’d outlive them since she had been dealing with cancer since she was in her twenties. But, my mom was sure to live her life to the fullest. She was happy. Sure, she was scared and tired, too but, all in all, she lived in such a way that she didn’t waste a moment of the good times. Anyone who knew her knows this is true. I guess that’s where I get it. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all.

So, when I’m surrounded by my friends and family and we are all eating, dancing,  drinking, laughing and having a good time, I’m often laughing the most. That’s when I’ve had people tell me “your always so happy”. That always makes me feel so wonderful. For me, it feels like Victory!

I know it is easy to feel despair and sadness in this life, especially with all of the horrible things going on in the world but, take it from me, you can feel empathy and sadness for the people who are affected but, then, try to get away from the news and the T.V. and go and do something that makes you happy. You won’t ever regret it.

xoxo