Cancer Monster

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I felt like I needed some fresh air this morning.

My cousin gets her mastectomy done today. We will find out if the cancer has spread to her sentinel nodes. I asked that her husband to let me know  what’s going on for they live several states away. If money is not an issue, I would fly up there and be with my cousin. But I am still buried in medical bills. I can’t leave my two jobs. Oh well.

I just returned from a fifty minute walk in the neighborhood. Halloween is in the air. Some neighbors already started decorating for the season. They must be happy. The childish mind in me thinks they must not have the cancer monster interfering with their family.

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Victim Number Six, Come on Up

You know what is almost as painful as hearing, “You have breast cancer?” It’s hearing, “I have breast cancer” from a relative.

My cousin, seven years younger than I just got diagnosed with breast cancer. She does not have the pathology report yet but it is two centimeters, not showing from her first mammogram three years ago. Only thirty-four years old, she feels so scared. As an oncology nurse, she still feels scared. Nothing prepared her for this. Nothing prepared me for this.

I remember praying up above last October, “Please God, let me be the last [to get hit by breast cancer]. But here we are again. It has not been a year since I was diagnosed, now my extended family have to endure the bad experience.

I feel her pain. I think about her all the time since I heard the bad news. This counts as the sixth breast cancer in my family. Why?

On  my first night back at work after four nights off, guess what patient I got for assignment?

A patient with stage four breast cancer that metastasized to different organs including the brains and bones.

As soon as I got a report from the outgoing nurse, I felt nauseous. I had to squat in front of the sink a few times…I could not eat for more than twenty-four hours. I feared for my cousin’s and my future.

When the patient’s family visited, I wanted to be not a nurse for that night and join them in mourning. Their loved one is dying. I wanted to cry with them…

Friends,  tell me something positive I need to hear.

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes in our lives we reach rock bottom. We experience what we call HELL. For each of us it’s dressed up differently, but for all of us it is dark, tough and devastating. This HELL can be our awakening. Some people call it a breakdown; I believe it is a breakthrough.
From “The Pocket Guide To Your Heart”

Optimists convert stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
W. Howard Wight, Jr.

Breast Cancer Gene, Do I Wanna Know You?

This house gets my attention each time I pass it by on my walk to the park. Hidden and serene, sometimes I wanna feel like what this house feels like to me.

I finally scheduled myself for my first genetic testing appointment. We might just talk on the first time. I don’t know. I put it away for months. The thought of finding out if I have the breast cancer gene or not got parked away in the back of my head for sometime. I want to know but afraid of the result. If positive for BRCA (pronounced as BRA-kuh), my oncologist recommends to remove my ovaries prophylactically. Here we go again with prophylaxis. Didn’t I just have my non-cancerous left breast removed last December. Next the ovaries, and then…?

I have been taking walks lately, twice in a day when my schedule and energy allows. Yesterday, I walked to the park twice for a total of seven miles. Imagine that. With my eReader who reads out loud for me and a willing-very-enthusiastic-spring-footed Snowball the poodle, the long walks get more enduring. It makes me feel better than an Ativan pill.

Get your self de-stressed too.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Till next time.

 

I Need You Back

Bald on April 2

Still Bald on May 10

It has been more than five weeks since my last chemo. My head looks as bald as before with no obvious signs of hair  “come back”–hair that I need so badly. Why? It is almost summer. My wigs, however breathable, feel like heater on the top of my head. My daughter prefers I have some form of hair on my head. I like the looks of myself better with wig or hair…

Paul asks me if I need a microscope as he often catches me an inch away from the mirror, scrutinizing anything black-looking on my bald. Is that new hair? No, just fuzz, fuzz, fuzz like lint from the drier. Maybe if I stop checking, my hair will grow overnight?

My oncologist said that with Taxotere in particular which is hard on the hair, growth may not be expected until after four to seven weeks. I should be patient. Oh well.

The good news from my last oncologist visit is because I had bilateral mastectomy, I don’t need mammogram ever. That is a relief. I hated that feeling of my chests being squeezed as flat as  pancakes. Yikes. No more feeling like my breasts would pop any second…

I passed the physical exam with flying colors. No lumps, no suspicious growth except for a mole on my forearm. She wants me to see a dermatologist for that. It is looking green and swollen with uneven edges. Easily fixable, I think. Chance is, it will be removed. I can easily endure that.

I will have every four-month visits to my oncologist from now on. Any bone pain, chest pain, trunk pain…I will report. Any cough and shortness of breath that linger, I should phone to the oncology department. Why? Because breast cancer, if it spreads, usually goes to the bone, lungs, or liver first. Something to keep in mind. This is my new normal. I have to listen to my body. I cannot take any pain or discomfort for granted.

Oh well, life could be worse, right? Although it is premature, I feel like a 50% survivor. Maybe with hair added, 75%?

Cancer and Stress

Bilateral mastectomy done. Chemotherapy done. Radiation not needed. All for my stage 1 ductal carcinoma triple negative type. Now what? Do I need more frequent mammogram? Of what? Of my abdominal fat/tissue that is now my chest? Do I need to have MRI or cat scans? I will find out on my next oncology appointment this month.

Lately, I have been so stressed with my kids. Gone were the post hospitalization days when they actually missed me and were extra sweet and thoughtful. I get to the point that it is no longer fun and rewarding to be a mother. My kids–a teen son (13) and preteen little lady (12) drive me insane to the point that I have crying and screaming pits. One night, I called the police to report my son missing. He failed to go home by six and went home at nine fifteen at night because he “did not realize what time it was.” He had his watch on. My daughter made me upset too. I found out, she had been throwing organic milk and sandwiches in the trash to get food from the cafeteria, running the cafeteria account balance to negative without telling me…My aunt who was visiting comments I don’t need this kind of stress. Stress is not good for me. It can cause my cancer to go back, she says. She may be right. I have to reduce this stress somehow. I need to learn to effectively discipline my kids. Maybe I should check into love and logic.

Aside from the family stress, I have been feeling good physically. I began to tackle my yard and the numerous dandelions and weeds that invaded my abandoned lawn. My kids and I filled up eight trash bags full of weeds and prunings. Imagine that? I walk the dog more too, mostly with auntie who’s visiting me. She will leave tomorrow after helping me declutter the garage, kitchen, kids’ rooms, and the living room. I will miss her.

I have accomplished some things. Cancer treatment is one of them. Soon, I will get Children Discipline 101 down (and done) as well. Oh, well.