Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Breasties! Then & Now

Friends come to us at the most unexpected times and this friendship is no different. We met in the chemo room last year and soon realized we had much in common. Lorena, a spitfire in her own right, resonated with me from the second we met across the room, tethered to our chemo chairs and poles. Her spirit came across loud and strong! She had an obvious fire in her belly with her cancer-picked-the-wrong-girl attitude and an immediate bond was formed.

We have the exact-same line-up of surgeons and oncologists down to our second opinion docs. She's a repeat offender with breast cancer like me (her 2 rounds, me 3) and we both speak other languages. Most importantly, I knew that we both shared the gonna-have-a-knockdown-with-cancer mentality.

So, when we reconnected recently outside of the chemo room for coffee, we dove right in where we left off (minus the chemo poles!) a year ago. First order of business, our hair! I'm sure people in the coffee shop couldn't figure out why two gals hugged each other and then immediately started touching each other's heads. "Yours is so soft!" "Mine grew in coarse." "Mine grew in curly." "Mine sticks up!" "Mine has grey now." Laughing through it all, we sat down and were off and running. I even noticed that 3 different people sat down next to us but then quickly changed tables. We didn't care. We both looked at all three of them and then quickly returned to our own world and chatter.

In one hour, we managed to chitchat about several items on our mental agenda. Minus a few chemo-brain moments on both our sides, we jabbered on about our new energy levels (or lack thereof), nutrition, our achy joints from meds, combating fatigue, newly diagnosed breasties and the like. But mostly, we just connected about life, our immense gratitude to be alive and kickin' and how we need a damn cure for this disease. We talked about how we both know the statistics looming over our heads but how we both have chosen to ignore them.

The takeaway was that I walked away from my breastie-coffee-date feeling more like myself again having connected with my sister from another mister. Having chatted it up openly and honestly about how we're truly feeling without judgement and minimizing from anyone else really elevated me. We didn't complain, we simply spoke about the facts and how we'll keep moving forward in gratitude. In a nutshell, we collectively smiled with thankfulness for each and every day.

So, thanks to Lorena for your kick-a$$ attitude, your contagious rockin' spirit and for just being you. Note to self, must have more coffee dates with you!

Lastly, thank you cancer for this friendship; a definite silver lining with round 3!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Let's Talk Tamoxifen!

Amid all of the humor and poking fun at breast cancer that I have thoroughly enjoyed, this is one aspect of the aftermath that I personally, don't find humorous at all. In fact, I often find myself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the drug that is keeping me alive and free of future breast cancers. Between the side effects and the long list of pharmaceutical interactions, it's an ongoing balance of emotions based upon my daily physical wellness. No benedryl, no pineapple (which I just ate for breakfast this morning!) and no antidepressants. Seriously? Because that's exactly what one needs in this situation. I mean, as if I don't read labels enough, now I need to look at what foods, meds and herbs that contain estrogen.

And here's something that I know we can all relate to, those horrible commercials about meds that will help you sleep, lose weight, enhance your mood, etc. BUT, the 'Oh by the way' disclosures (insert your best commercial voice-over here) can really mess with your head... Tamoxifen may cause cancer of the uterus, strokes and blood clots in the lungs or legs. These conditions may be serious or fatal so be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you develop symptoms such as weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, sudden vision changes, confusion, shortness of breath, chest pain or calf pain and swelling.

Really? First let me say that I have my dad's calves which have always been a little on the larger size. I also lose my breath walking up stairs and yes, my vision has definitely changed. As for the confusion, uh, helllooo, I had chemo! We're all confused now - but, that's a separate blog post. And as for the long list of side effects that have me searching the internet well into the night, I get it. Hot flashes - check. Weight gain - check (I like to call it the 'Tamoxifen 30!') Fatigue - check. Hair loss - check. Bone ache - check. Migraines - check.

But my point is this - many of us are taking this daily drug for at least 10 years, if not a lifetime, that may very well be a life-saver. So, there's got to be an emotional solution to my daily potion of life-saving medication. I've got to befriend my little white pills, be grateful that I even have the opportunity to take a substance that keeps me upright and above ground. So, gratitude it is.

I am truly grateful for my Tamoxifen, I am grateful that I can get up each and every day and function, I am grateful that my side effects are not debilitating, and I am grateful that I have other meds to counterbalance the extreme side effects when they hit me hard. Pure and simple, I am just so grateful.

So, in a word, 'thanks' Tamoxifen.