Friday, April 6

Ok. Ok. Not Really In Hell......

Hi. It's me. I'm back and I'm ok. I had a good chat with my Doctor about all the things I was feeling, and he said "when did you stop taking the Tamoxifen?" I answered "I haven't stopped yet" (cue the tears, because I was trying, really trying to deal with this medication as I had been told it was a life saver). And his reply was "well stop!" "you can stop!". Halleluyah!!!!!! He ordered a blood test to check my estrogen levels, to see where I'm at there, because if I am in menopause naturally, then there are other meds I can take. Three weeks have passed since this conversation and I have returned to normal, I don't feel crazy, I don't feel homicidal or irritated at everything/everyone all the time. Thank Fuck. I was really beginning to worry about my sanity, and my body was reacting to all the stress in the old ways and I was getting triggered about that. I was afraid there was more in my subconscious to look forward to. Things have actually bee really good these past few weeks, everything has returned to normal. my skin is looking really good and I am waking up feeling actually rested, not dreading the day, or wondering where I was going to muster the strength and patience to get through the day with my family.

So about 5 weeks ago I started to eat better. Whole foods as much as possible, little or no sugar (down to 1/2 a teaspoon in my coffee from 2 heaping) brown grains, more veg. and even thought I'm not working out (yet) I have shed 9 pounds. I feel pretty good too! I'm trying to limit my calories a bit, but mostly working on drinking the water and taking the vitamins, making good choices for my body and indulging when I need a treat. I have also started meal planning and prep on Sundays so my food and snacks are made and ready in the fridge. Next is starting some exercise, I'm thinking couch to 10k and/or strength training.

And some things have happened since I've started to get better, and I am so much more able to cope with things now that I've come through something actually serious and worthy of angst and stress. I realize now, that I used to be a bit of a drama queen, reacting strongly and taking on a lot of things or stressing out about stuff and overthinking it. Granted I still do a  bit of that, but not so much anymore. It's true what they say, "don't sweat the small stuff". I am a much calmer person now, internally. I do feel transformed by my cancer experience. I feel like I am actually alive. ALIVE!!!!! I am much less preoccupied by "what if" because my "what if" happened. And you know what? I lived. I not only lived, I got fierce, I won.

On my journey this past year, a cousin, who lives in South Africa, got in touch with me to let me know my bio dad had cancer too (lymph). And 4 days ago she told me had passed away. Now, most of you know, he was my abuser, doing that to me before the age of 2. Thankfully I was not in proximity to him for long and by three or four had a wonderful Dad, whom I adore, Ed. But the torture and trauma of this experience drove me to some pretty dark places in my early 20's and by my 30's I began to fall apart. Fortunately, I found therapy, and my people (you know who you are), and was able to come through the other side mentally and physically well. At that point that therapy was the hardest thing I'd ever been through. And even though I had let it go, I knew, because he was still alive that there might be a chance he would try to find me or make contact with me. Especially now that he has a Grandson. I didn't know until he was dead, that I was worried about that. But I was also very, very relieved. I felt something lift away.

Why did I just tell you all that? I guess because I'm learning that everything you experience makes you who you are right now, and how you react to things shapes how it affects you. The trauma as a young girl made me a fighter, strong and protective, loyal and fierce. My cancer called on these deep reserves of strength, and fortified them, calling into play my wisdom and care as an older Me. I feel very optimistic about the coming years, working on being a better artist, better friend, better partner. Most of all really stoked on being around. Love to you. Take care of each other.

Friday, March 9

What Fresh Hell is This...

I'm supposed to feel good now right? I'm supposed to feel relief and joy at not having cancer anymore right? So why do I feel like shit? Well, because Jeff, things aren't black and white, good and bad. Yes you are cancer free but guess what? they never know if they "got" everything, if there are rogue cells drifting around in your body waiting to latch on to something more important than a breast. How about bones? how about lungs? how about liver? And when exactly will it show up if it it's going to? 5 years? 10? 30?My anxiety levels are pretty high right now. Don't worry, I have taken steps, contacted the Surviorship centre at the Hospital to get in to see a councelor, called my Oncologist to talk about the Tamoxifen side effects I am feeling, 'cause baby, I am feeling crazy. The hot flashes have calmed down now, which is a relief, but the irritability and the rage over nothing has got to stop. I feel like I have a dark cloud over my head constantly, like every day I feel like the day ...just...wont...end....and I'm waiting for the day to be over, but then at the end of the day, I'm waiting for something else, I don't know what......

On the other hand, radiation went quite smoothly. It was a routine that I got used to, short of a few teary appointments when I freaked out  and was POSITIVE I had lymphedema  (I don't) and was feeling overwhelmed at yet another process I had to go through. My Radiologist suggested that I am quite sensitive to the Tamoxifen and that there are steps I could take to be less stressed and anxious. I am all for it. Except the leading treatment of Tamoxifen side effects is Effexor.  Now for those of you who really know me, you know I had been on Effexor for upwards of 7 years, during my treatment and therapy for my "stuff" (I don't want to get into that now. I might unpack it at a later date but not today)...and it worked. I might go so far as to say it was one of the things that saved my life, it did it's job well. BUT. The coming off process was BRUTAL. I tapered off every week, slowly, as slowly as I could and I still was all over the place, I had crying bouts, I had the electric shock stuff going on in my head and lips ,my sleep was awful, it was a mess.  And it took upwards of a year to do. Anyway, I have a phone call scheduled for today at 3 to talk to my Oncologist and see what he has to say about it all and if there is maybe another thing to try? I'm not sure if that is just going to mean the same thing but under another name, but I know something has got to change. I can change it.

My hair has grown back super curly, it's really weird right now, I'm kind of sporting hair like Grisham from CSI Las Vegas. It's too short to style, to short to cut, but too long to just sit there properly. Thank God I don't have a beard!

 I'm sorry this wasn't the happiest post today. Thank you for holding space for me here, and reading about my journey. I am ok. I have been pro active about getting help. I'll keep you updated when I talk to the Doctor. Love, Jeff

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.