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Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

 

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything in the breast cancer journal. My journaling has taken another path – it is not online, and it is not about being a breast cancer survivor. My mother died in August and a lot of what I have been writing about privately describes my journey through grief.

On August 11, 2010, I went to Denver for my check-up with the doctor at the imaging center and my oncologist. The doctor at the imaging center looks at the mammogram and ultrasound results during my visit, so I knew by the time I was on my way home that I was still NED (no evidence of disease). My oncologist wanted me to have another mammogram and a visit with her in six months; after that, my mammogram schedule would be once a year. She reminded me that it was almost five years since my diagnosis, and at the five-year milestone, my risk of recurrence would go down so significantly that it would be about the same as for all other women in my age category.

On my way home from the hospital, I called my family to let my mother, who was out of town for a medical procedure, know that my check-up was good, and Mom was very happy about that. The following day, unexpectedly, my mother died during the procedure.

Now it’s January, and in one week, it will be five months since my mother died, which seems impossible. And a month after that, it will be time for my six-month checkup, the last one before my anniversary, and a month later, it will be March, five years from my diagnosis, and the milestone that has been my goal: stay cancer free for five years.

In the meantime, I am not feeling well – I am so tired, I am not sleeping well, I have headaches, I was not eating right. For a while, I didn’t have much of an appetite. When I did, rather than going back to my  low-fat diet, I began eating comfort food. This week, I brought home bags of fresh green vegetables and am determined to start eating right again. I fluctuate between feeling relief of getting to that five-year mark and the nagging stress of not feeling well and needing one more round of tests before the anniversary to make sure I am still okay.

Things that go through my head, that I try to dismiss:  Why am I so tired – as tired as I was when I had cancer? Because my cancer is back, or because I am grieving and not sleeping well?  What about my headaches? When reading, why do I see “red bed and butter” instead of “rye bread and butter”? Why am I having trouble with my speech? Because I’m getting aphasia, or because I didn’t rest well? Why am I so forgetful? Are these real and lasting memory problems, or is it just stress?

Those are things I wouldn’t admit to my friends, but somehow am okay with posting on the internet where other survivors can read them, because I know you understand what I’m talking about.

Underneath all of this, I somehow feel settled about things. Although I hate it when people say my mother “is in a better place,” I believe that my mother is okay and that she will always be present to me in ways that are more palpable than memory, because she is my mother, and she will not abandon me (a wonderful thing a friend said to me). I believe that I am probably still cancer free and will get through my checkup okay and that the lumps under my arm are from something else and will go away. And if they aren’t gone in two weeks, I will make an appointment to have them checked, as I do with other things that don’t go away. I believe that grief is a non-linear, inescapable process, part of being a human being, and I vow to try to learn from my children, who have lost their fathers, how to live with it with dignity.

And I believe that even if I don’t remain cancer-free, we are all playing our part in the unrelenting and majestic evolution of the cosmos, and I believe in what some people call the communion of saints or souls, and some people call the cosmic consciousness, and, as my sister says, “I believe in the seen and the unseen.” And I hope to learn courage from others who have gone before me.

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The last days of October. The sky in the north looks wintery today but the sun is out and suddenly I realize the meadowlark is back from springtime, sitting in a tree instead of the top of a pole, singing gloriously for a few more temperate days.

My book describes the western meadowlark’s song as a “rich, flutelike jumble of gurgling notes” and says this bird wasn’t recognized as different from the eastern meadowlark until 1844 when Audubon named them neglecta because they’d been overlooked so long.  They are so welcome at my house, never neglecta. My heart is full when I hear them sing.

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Milestone

I’ve passed a milestone. It’s been three years since my diagnosis and surgery. My risk of recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer begins going down now. I drove to Denver in the rain. I met with my oncologist who congratulated me and once again explained that my risk will continue to go down until, after five years, if it hasn’t recurred, it probably will not.

I had been afraid to talk about the anniversary, or to celebrate it. Superstitious feelings that I might jinx it? I don’t know. I drove home from Denver under a big blue Colorado sky. I realized I feel different now. I have been marking this time – the three years – knowing that my chance of recurrence during that time was high. I made it. Now I’m not just going to celebrate the anniversary, I’m going to celebrate every day. I want to shift from worrying about what might happen to thinking about all of the possibilities and potential for the rest of my life.

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The meadowlark that sits on top of the light pole and sings reminds me that it is Spring in spite of the cold and windy weather we’ve been having for two months. This morning we have dense fog, but the meadowlark is still singing. It is supposed to be rainy the first part of the week and then begin to warm up with chances of thunderstorms. I’m more than ready to turn off the heat and get outdoors.

Thursday is my appointment with my oncologist in Denver. I had my surgery three years ago this month. This is a significant anniversary, because my risk of recurrence peaks at three years and then starts going down.

“Women with triple-negative breast cancer were much more likely to develop a recurrence during the first 3 years following therapy with rapid declines thereafter.”

“. . . among the triple-negative group, the risk of distant recurrence peaked at ∼3 years and declined rapidly thereafter.” – Various sources

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http://livingbeyondbc.wordpress.com/

Living Beyond Breast Cancer has a new topic on their blog called “fear of recurrence.” The first post in the series is called “An Appointment to Worry.”

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Arizona

This month I am in Arizona where it is warm while it is cold and snowy at home.

My ultrasound, mammogram, and checkup with the oncologist in January were good.

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer posted on Facebook a link to Laura Tasheiko’s breast cancer journal. I love the paintings and the way she processed her journey with them. I plan to spend more time there.

I also loved this post, “The tyranny of positive thinking.”

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