Adjustments and a little limbo–January 22, 2012

Adjustments and a little limbo

Written Jan 22, 2012 7:47am

Hello from a very warm New Orleans!

After our first two winters here being very cold, we are definitely experiencing a mild one. According to our landlord, 1 out of every 3 or 4 winters is similar to this, but it has been different for us! I know it’s nice, but I am jealous of the snow I’ve been hearing about this past week in places like Chicago, Michigan, and Seattle. I’m missing skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating!!! I can’t help it; I love the four seasons–or at least being able to have access my favorite seasonal activities like when I was in Los Angeles! 🙂 Although, being away from ice this winter is probably a good thing–I would not want to slip and fall. A splinter is one thing. A fall? Not a good idea.

Terry and I both had Monday off for MLK Day and the 3-day weekend was much needed. It was a very mellow weekend with lots of rest–our big adventures were grocery shopping and walking Zoey. My heel healed nicely and Terry’s ear was fine once the wax was removed. By the way, your comments about our little drama last Friday night cracked me up!

Back to work Tuesday was a long day with parent-teacher conferences on top of a regular school day. An 11-hour day—nothing like getting right back into things. Parents were supportive and it was the start of a short week, so I had energy. However, by Friday afternoon, my surplus of energy was gone and the novelty of my being back—for both my students and myself—had worn very thin. I did catch up on all of my grading, however! 🙂

Went to see the oncologist Thursday afternoon with Terry.  Dr. Gurtler confirmed that my cancer is Stage IA and that my surgeon did a great job on my mastectomy. She also agrees with my surgeon that I’m in a big grey area in regards to whether or not I do chemo. The main tumor was smallish at 1 cm, but it was a grade 3 that exhibited “marked variation in size and shape, occasionally with very large and bizarre forms.” Bizarre is not something you really want identifying a tumor, nor is a grade of 3. This tumor was aggressive and fast moving—and it was a good thing I had my mammogram when I did—but it looks like the cancer has been put in check, for now. The challenge is in deciding if chemo and hormonal therapy would both be beneficial to me or if hormonal therapy alone enough. Because I am estrogen receptor positive for breast cancer* there is a diagnostic test called the Oncotype DX that assesses the likelihood of recurrence of the disease and determines just how beneficial chemo would be for people like me. Dr. G. has ordered this test for me and the results will be in in 2 weeks when I see her next on February 2.

Visiting Dr. Gurtler’s office Thursday afternoon was a humbling experience for me. She does chemo treatments in her office where patients sit in these big Lazy-Boy chairs for their treatments and on Thursday there were 3 people in her office having chemo treatments. I’ve never been in the same room with anyone who is actually having chemo before and it kind of freaked me out. While the patients looked comfortable, there was an overwhelming somberness to the situation that was really unsettling. Chemo ain’t no joke.

Another thing that Dr. G and I discussed again was nutrition, and alcohol consumption in particular. In early December, a new study was released that found some significant links between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Prior studies had recommended no more than 2 drinks a day for women who were at risk for breast cancer, but now that number has dropped to no more than 1 a day—and really only 3-5 drinks a week, if that.  After my appointment with Dr. G in December, Terry was ready to have me swear off all alcohol forever, but I wanted to revisit the discussion. She wouldn’t mind if I cut back to the point of being a teetotaler and opt for moderate indulgence of chocolate and ice cream instead—after I increase my exercise level. However, an occasional glass of wine is not the end of the world. Great. I have to lose a breast and give up my favorite crutch in dealing with stress and I can’t break a sweat yet with exercise? And, I don’t know yet if I’m going to have to give up my hair for chemo? Compound this with PMS and I was a most unhappy little camper Thursday night…

Saturday morning I woke up on a mission: go through my clothes and figure out what I can wear. 3.5 weeks post surgery and I had the energy to try things on and figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Mission accomplished and dang, was it therapeutic on so many levels!!! I also realized that much of what I have works regardless of whether or not I have reconstruction and I didn’t even have a full bag of clothes to donate to the Salvation Army!

Thank you for being so supportive of these blog posts. I definitely appreciate this release; it reminds me of how I used to write letters home from Antigua while in Peace Corps and the connectedness letters could bring. Speaking of PC, this July is the 20th year anniversary of my group heading to the Eastern Caribbean and beginning our Peace Corps adventure. Crazy how fast time has flown! And a week ago was the 10th anniversary of meeting my dear husband for the first time…  🙂

All the best.

•My type of breast cancer feeds on estrogen basically and so if you diminish my supply of estrogen, my type of breast cancer doesn’t have anything to feed on. This is why I will be on Tamoxifen for 5 years—it cuts down the production of estrogen by my ovaries. Basically, the Tamoxofen type of hormonal therapy is an ‘anti-hormone’ treatment rather than a hormone supplement and will put my body into a menopausal state—but not actual menopause.

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