Sunday, December 17

C is for...

Wow. I have been running the gambit emotionally these past few weeks. I was reluctant to write about it only because I wasn't even sure what I was feeling or how to articulate it. I have been super bummed out this past week. It all started ,when after my surgery, I was feeling so good! I was being proactive, I was healing! I had kicked that cancer to the curb. Literally. Then Annie asked me if I wanted to go out and I did, and it was awesome. I danced like nothing in my body hurt, I wore a tank top like I wasn't missing a breast and I smiled a smile that came from way down deep inside, you know when you just feel connected? yeah, that.
And you know, I had somehow been in a bubble post surgery, like now that it was out of my body, I was done. Even though I knew radiation was coming and the hormone blocker was coming, I had convinced myself it was kinda over.And then the appointment to talk about radiation happened and the next day the sitting in the oncologists office for hours happened (which I find emotionally exhausting and so so sad) and the talk about Tamaxofen. I will be on this estrogen blocker for 5 years. And the list of side effects are almost the same as chemo! Not the fatigue, but joint pain, swelling of hands and feet, hot flashes. FUCK. I really wanted to be done. I came home and I cried and had a mini meltdown and I was really bummed out and defeated for a few days. So in a fit of rebellion, I waited three days to fill my prescription, but I did start it. And you know what? it's not bad at all. My hot flashes are a bit "hotter", I'm having night sweats a bit and some joint pain in my elbows and fingers to compliment my already aching hips and lower back. Incidentally, the doctor ordered another bone scan, just to be sure it's not bone "mets". But not until I get back from seeing my Mom in B.C.

And there was a fantastic 10 days, with my Mom and me and Jake on Cortez. I started feeling better about everything. It seemed far away, in another life. And I was taken care of in that way only Moms can do. There was wine and silly movies and laughter. Just what I needed. It was rainy and foggy and windy and chilly, but I'm glad it was. You see because the last few visits have been in the Summer, I had created this idealized version of the West Coast in my head, like it was always warm, there was lots of sun and I did feel like I wanted to move back. But then the winter weather and being on Cortez at this time of years kind of put it in perspective. The low clouds for days, the damp, the wind. Of course all the extra people from the summer have gone home and there are really only the die hard Islanders there, with their quirks and strange fashion (not you Mom, you Rock). I remembered then, what it was like as a kid, spending the winters there. I had a reality check, and it was good. We got to spend an awesome day with my Dad in Campbell River visiting and then the next day we flew home.

I came home on the Saturday, and Monday I had the bone scan. I still can't get over the imagery of my skeleton on the screen when they are scanning you! (I am going to request the pictures for myself so I can use them in a project I'm thinking up) and Wednesday, I had another appointment with my Oncologist to discuss the scan and talk about how the Tamaxofen is going. I didn't have to wait long in the waiting room, and the appointment was the best one I've had since April 19th. He said, there are no signs of any cancer in my bones and that the aching is probably my muscles. Which i already knew since the day after my last appointment, I did a yoga class and all the pain went away! He said we were pretty much done, he needs to see me in 6 months to see where my ovaries are at (lol). You see Chemo stopped my periods, and kicked me into menopause, and because of my age, and the fact that I was probably already in peri menopause, it might be permanent, so we have to wait until we are sure all the chemo is gone from my system and everything has settled down a bit. If this is the case, then I will be switched to a different drug, one that, I think, has less side effects. BUT, this moment was awesome! the realization that I don't have to come back! The Oncologist and my cancer are not the orchestrators of my life any more!!!! I envisioned walking through a huge set of carved doors into the next part of my life. Full colour, full sound.

And so. Here I am. Alive. And carrying on. It's going to be ok. I am heading into 5 weeks of radiation now, but from what I hear it's a nothing on the cancer-o-meter and I'm ready. I will try and keep blogging here to let you folks know what up, but I will be starting a Patreon page soon, where I think the blogging and posting will happen. Plus, you can subscribe on my page and help support my art making! My goal is to be able to be an artist and work in/from my home. It's time to focus on the things that make me happy, and art is one of them, so here I go!! I love you all. Thank you for reading and commenting and being the awesome people that you are. I could not have done it without you.

Saturday, November 18

Day By Day...

So here I am. Three weeks out from having my right breast removed. And you know what? I feel fine. Even better than fine actually, this last week or so I've felt...well...Alive.  And excited, not anxious, relieved, happy even. My hair is growing back, the dark circles under my eyes are receding, I think I can actually feel an eyelash or two. The only real issue now is the hip and lower back pain I'm feeling. I know it's a side effect of the chemo and that I should be patient with myself and let myself heal, but man, do I ever want to start exercising and being able to get off the couch without groaning  and walking all bunched up for a few feet before everything stretches out a bit! and the menopausal side effects aren't great either. Hot flashes and night sweats as well as, well frankly, a dead libido and dryness that matches the Gobi desert. Sigh. Everyone tells me it will get better and I do now believe that, as they said it would get better during chemo, and it did. OH MY GOD I am so fucking glad that cancer is out of my body!!!!! did I mention that before? FUUUUUCK this is a hard thing to do. But totally survivable. I've been thinking about that, survival and our instincts and what makes one person strong and able to handle shit and another just dissolve. For me personally, this event and writing about said event has shown me I am strong. People continue to tell me I am, and that they don't know how I can do it and that they are proud of me for weathering everything the way I have. Thank you, but you know what? that's just me and my personal level of strength. I didn't really know how I did it either, until I thought about it. I do know how I fucking made it. I have a survivors strength. For years, I lived with the internal pain of child abuse, I learned how to protect myself, deflect, keep safe, that spark inside of me was surrounded by a fortress. You see my inner Demons that plagued me for half my life? they lost. I got help, and it took 9 years to get to a place where I was calm. I know about walls, and protection and the will to survive. No way in Hell is a little cancer going to make it to the inner core, my inner core, the core that is pure me. Nope. Not this time buddy. And you know, learning to share my body with an alien thing, I mean being pregnant, prepared my for this too.That feeling of being on a ride you cannot get off of, and having to give over a certain amount of yourself, however unwilling, to the other. That's how I did it, how I'm doing it. I already knew how to do it, I just didn't know I did. And now I feel strong, and lighter, free. I get more time, another chance, more Life! no not everything is perfect, but that's ok. I get to keep going! Thank you everyone for keeping tabs on me and making me feel so loved, it's been incredible to have such support. I feel very lucky to have people like you all in my life and I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you. Some of you have suggested I keep writing my blog when I'm done all this cancer stuff (I still have radiation, reconstruction, and 5 years of meds, before declared cancer free) but I'd like to keep going. Are there any things you'd like to know more about? Until next time. Jeff.

Monday, November 6

My Friends Call Me Lefty...


So my surgery was last week and I'm sure many of you would like to know how it went. It went really, really well.A few of you already know that because you've checked in, so thank you. I think I've been reluctant to write about it because I'm still processing everything.

                                                    And after...

I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am, I was the first surgery of the day for my surgeon. I was gowned and put in a waiting cubicle by the nurses station and the anesthetist and the nurse who would escort me came to say hi. Then the doctor who was going to watch the surgery came in and initialed the breast that was going to go. Then my surgeon came in and said hi to me and asked me how I was feeling and if I was ready.I nodded, too choked up to voice anything. I was actually afraid, but I didn't want to show any fear. I wanted to be strong. My nurse then told me it was time to go and she walked me down the hallway to the operating room. I started to cry when she was walking me and she squeezed me and said "Don't cry sweetheart, look at me, I am 67 years old and two years ago I was where you are, and now look at me. I am fine, and you will be fine too". It did feel weird walking into the operating room and getting up on the table myself. but everyone was cheerful and efficient and my I was not conscious long. My recovery from the anesthetic was a little longer than they predicted, I was in recovery until almost 3 o'clock and the nurse I had was wonderful. Nurturing and concerned, clucking around me like a mother hen she was perfect. Home was fine too, I wasn't feeling to groggy, but I did try to eat a few hours after getting home and I got sick. The drains were a pain in the ass and really weird. I just don't need to see the internal fluids you know? But I was up and atem a few days later, much to the surprise of my friends and family. All week people brought food over and checked in. I got my drains out exactly a week after surgery and I still have the steri strips on as you can see in the above picture. Much to my own surprise and secret relief, I don't miss my breast. Of course now that it's gone I can no longer be in denial about the shape my body is in 'cause it's not hiding under my boobs. But that is for later. now I need to rest and stretch my arm and continue recovering from chemo as well as surgery. Pathology report is on Nov. 22nd.

Saturday, October 21

On the Eve of Surgery....(almost)

This last week has been a doozy. I had my pre surgery prep class and learned all the things. Home the same day? what? Drain care? what? Yup that's right, I'm going to have two drains hanging off my body for up to 10 days. They will prevent swelling and the collection of fluids under my incisions. YUCK. Sometimes I really don't like being in a human body. It's been a bit of a trip for me in that regard because I spent so many years dissasociating from my body and living in my head. Now I know many many intimate things about the inner workings of my body and systems. Some days Life is just a little too REAL, you know what I mean?
And of course most of you know, that I had to have my cat Luccia put down a few days ago. My life is a classic Country tale of woe right now. Old country, not new. Me and Hank Williams, hangin out eating 'Gator Fritters, on the tailgate of a gas guzzling flatbed.
I first heard Hank Williams when I was 8 years old. My Mom had a contract at a logging camp in Bella Coola to be the cooks assistant and I went up and lived with her for a while. The Foreman of the camp, Fritz, loved country music and so did his wife Sheila, the Cook. It played over the speakers most days in the mess hall or when Sheila and my Mom were cooking. They also had a black and white bobtailed cat that would only eat salted raw eggs. And a huge newfoundland dog that I used to ride around the camp like a horse, until he got smart and started taking swims in the sewage pool, so I wouldn't come near him. Anyway, I digress. I guess my point is, even when your life is a country song, there are good things there.
How am I feeling? most of you ask. I guess I'm ok. I am definitely looking forward to having the cancer removed and examined so I really know what's what. I'm sad I'm going to lose my breast. but feel like it is a small price to pay for my life. And having it out of my body soon is going to be great.
So far the "only" lingering effects of the chemo are fatigue, I get tired by 1 or 2 o'clock usually, and some aches and pains that are residual. I feel old. I know I'm not but I never felt middle aged before now. I guess I still had some residual immortal feelings from my youth, not now. I've been thinking about death a little more lately,  particularly my death and for the first time, have been quite scared about dying. In the middle of the night, if I wake up, I lie there, mulling over all the scenarios of where my life could lead after this. Most of them are good, positive places, but there are some dark ones too. What if my cancer did actually matastasize and it's somewhere else? What if I get cancer in the other breast? What if I can't change my eating habits and exercise to a satisfactory degree? What if I die? what does dying really mean? What does it feel like? where will I go? What have I done, in this life, that is of any significance ( I mean outside of procreating).
I think it's quite natural to have all these thoughts, and it has opened up some space in my mind, for me to try and find the answers to those questions.
My surgery will be at 8 am on Tuesday the 24th. I will be in surgery about 2 hours, with a recovery of about an hour and then I will be sent home. With good drugs. L is taking the day off and is going to be with Jake all day, and I will squirrel away in the bedroom and rest.
I just remembered the dogs name. His name was Jed.
Love to You. I'll write soon.

Friday, October 6

The Next Step/ This Isn't Really Ever Going to be Over....

Don't get me wrong, I still feel the love, but as my chemo has concluded and I'm now moving into the surgery and radiation part of treatment, the hammer has kind of hit home. I'm having a reality check in the middle of something that I wish was not my reality and it's difficult to say the least.

So you get the news. Breast cancer, FUCK. The first worry(worries), what stage is it? how big is the mass? has it spread? will I lose my whole breast? what about the other one? will I survive this? how do I do this? Will it come back?
And then you get to tell all your friends and family your sick and they get sad and worried because they don't really know what it means, unless the have a survivor or two in their families (and there are A LOT) That's one of the first things you learn about this disease (all cancers not just breast) there are a FUCK of a lot of sick people out there, Holy Shit.
And so you just go through the steps that your Oncologists suggest, slowly grasping the facts here, and there, absorbing what you can and moving forward on this horrible ride. And then you learn you must have all your lymph nodes taken out on the side they are taking the breast off. Shit. Now, on top of every other thing, I am at risk (56 percent) of developing Lymphedema. This risk is for life. FOR LIFE!!! which, if it happens will seriously fuck with my "I want to live on a sail boat and sail the world" dream. Also, I will be flat on the right side for about a year, so my idea of looking like this right away:
looks more like this:
ok, I'm done complaining. I thought I was explaining everything factually but what I'm doing is ranting.And I'm done with that.  I think while I was doing chemo, I was so focused on the day to day, trying to get through feeling so bad, that I put all the other stuff away, deep inside my head, and as I neared the end of chemo, it all came bubbling up. Not just the facts about the next part of this journey, but the feelings around it all. So I have had days where I cry, actually I call it spontaneous leaking, random, solid, fast tears, hot, angry tears, sad slow tears...but then someone sends me a note saying hi or I get an awesome parcel in the mail and I remember I am so, so grateful to be alive, not terminal, and surviving. I am in awe every day at the people around me and the generosity they have shown me, and the inner strength I seem to be able to muster, even after the worst day. The key is, letting yourself feel all the feelings. I haven't held it all in, which is so important. It's hard to give yourself permission to just feel shitty, to me it feels like giving up, but it's actually a really important step in getting better.
So we move forward...I'm going to go to the Lymphedema  clinic at the hospital and get all the facts about everything. And I have come to terms with the idea I'm not going to look conventionally "pretty" right away in the booby department (which is a dream I carried through chemo so I could cope with all the information). In fact I may decide to stay flat instead of reconstruction, who knows? None of my clothes now really have a spot for breasts anyway, I mostly wear stretchy black clothes and sports bras, so there you go. I have a feeling that my scar will be something to  feel proud of, and worn with pride. Once I get through the mourning process and getting used to it being gone. (does that ever really happen?)
Anyway. I love you all. Thank you for your support and love. Onward we go.