Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Health Update and Post Treatment Musings

Well, I've talked a lot about how great our trip was and how much I enjoyed time with our kids but I haven't said much about how my body held up on the trip. And to that I'd say I did pretty good all round.

While we were pretty busy, I slept well every single night we were away and there were only a couple of mornings where we had to get up early. We also had a few days where a lot of time was spent being a passenger in a car, plane, or train. Easy! All of our travel arrangements went so smoothly ... just that mad rush in Toronto on the way to Baltimore ... and that ultimately worked out.

We did a lot of walking, of course, and the weather was usually on the cool side, though not nearly as cold as here. I do think the cold weather effects my joints a bit and probably all the walking did, too. My hips and the bones in the front of my feet ... mostly where my big toe connects to the rest of my foot ... cause me the most trouble. Most people wouldn't know they bother me and they don't hurt badly most of the time. What it does mean is that I have my limits when it comes to distance walking. It also means that the longer I walk, the more likely I am to limp and have trouble getting going again after I stop walking for a bit. Some of my joints seem to lock for a while if I've been walking for a long while. And when I stand after sitting for a while, I have to go slow and take my time before I start moving again. I have to wait until my hips let me stand fully upright and then settle in before I take my first steps. I feel this way most of the time to a lesser degree and I have ways of hiding it so people don't notice but it's much more bothersome after I've been on my feet for a while.

I hardly ever have trouble with my other joints but every now and then, for no reason I understand, I'll have very achy finger and thumb joints ... elbows and knees. I don't get it. I don't know if it's still after effects of the chemo and/or Arimidex or from the Tamoxifen. Whatever it is and annoying as it is, it doesn't much impact my quality of life, so I'm not complaining.

Last week I had that creepy carcinoma removed from my back and I get my stitches out on Monday. No biggie ... now that it's gone! I had my annual physical this week and it went okay ... nothing new to worry about. I love hearing the Doc say, "normal" ... "normal" ... "looks normal". Normal. Normal is good. Even my bloodwork went well. The nurse got it from my arm on the first try and it didn't hurt! And no bruising! In two weeks I have my annual mammogram and it had better be normal, too. Or else!

I know my hair doesn't fall under "health" but it does impact how I feel about myself. It's much more important to me than I could have anticipated. It's silly, really, but it's just so visible. If I'd come out of all of this with a hairy back or zebra stipes on my butt, it would not have been nearly as bothersome just because not only would other people not see it, I wouldn't see it much either. But my hair is just so ... OUT THERE! And some days it's more out there than others. As it grows longer, which is a good thing, it just seems to grow bigger and yet when I hold a mirror up to see the back of my head, I still see a lot of scalp. It's pretty thin back there. I try to straighten or at least smooth my hair some mornings but parts of it ... most noticeably my bangs ... snap back to curl mode at pretty quickly. A single drop of sweat from a hot flash is all it takes to invoke curl. Alas, I remind myself that it's better than no hair at all but I tell you, wearing a wig was easier and looked better.

Speaking of hot flashes, while I still have them, in general they're not as bad. I rarely have those ones that make me feel faint and sick to my stomach. They're much more tolerable than they were. I read that as people adjust to Tamoxifen, hot flashes can become less of a bother.

My weight. I gained a few pounds back while I was on holiday. I think that was mostly from when Kevin and I were managing on our own without Hannah's restaurant guidance. I must work to lose those few pounds because, of course, the goal is to lose more poundage yet. I need to be more active but I'm confident that will come as the weather improves. Walking, biking, and maybe some swimming would be good for me. I'm considering some yoga or even some pilates to help with my shoulders in particular. I'm going to book some appointments with Pat Fitchner, my extraordinary massage therapist who I haven't seen since last May. Why? Mostly because I started working full time in June and it was just too hard to fit even more than my medical appointments into my life - I was so frickin' tired!

My energy levels in general are improving, which is a relief. What I know now is that I went back to work too early. I realize now that my body was not ready ... that I needed more time to focus on getting well ... to getting rest, eating well, exploring therapies to help me deal with my shoulders and joints and other other side effects of breast cancer treatments. How does one know if they've gone back too early, though? By the time it's a decision to be made, you've forgotten what normal feels like and after feeling as crappy as you've ever felt in your whole life, even small improvements feel monumental. More guidance in that area would have been helpful in making a more informed decision. At the time I was feeling some of what I would call passive-aggressive kind of pressure from human resources and insurance to return to work - not from my office, though I know they were eager to have me back. But it is what it is and now that I'm feeling more able to manage full time work, I look back and wonder how I even made it to and from work those first months. I'm so glad that I'm steadily feeling stronger and closer to normal.

I was so sad to hear that Elizabeth Taylor died.
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