I love this song. I have heard it many times over the course of my storm called cancer and am well aware that sometimes God doesn’t take away the storms in my life. But I have felt Him calm me within. I am at that place now. A calm place. Sure, the dangers that lurk in this sea of my life hover beneath me all the time, but I have felt carried through this years’ storms and I know that come what may, He will carry me through those too. Please visit Reduce Your Risk pages to learn more about breast cancer risks.
Okay, so I knew that title would get your attention! This is me at my first social function in 8 1/2 months without a wig, a hat or a scarf! Last weekend I went to a friend’s birthday party “as is” with my fuzzy head of hair. I have to gel it a bit or else I look like I have bed-head, but there are worse things, right?
The blond behind me in the pink shirt in this picture is my friend and fellow breast cancer survivor, Donna, who has given me so much inspiration and courage through these last few months. (Birthday girl is behind her in polka dots – thatnks for including me Annemarie!) Together, next month, Donna and I celebrate our 1 and 2 year survival dates, respectively. Next week at my church ladies Bible study I will be giving my “story”, and telling how God has brought me and our family through the most difficult year of our lives. If I can get through those 12 minutes without melting in tears it will be a miracle!
I have been reading over some of my early blog entries from last September and October, which you can read too by clicking on the archive dates to the right on this page. I am reminded of how my life has rested in the palm of God’s hands and how I have felt “carried” through this past year. Carried because of those around me who have lifted my spirits, provided for my physical needs, and the prayers of many.
How do I feel?
Grateful. Strong. Empowered.
Please visit Reduce Your Risk pages to learn about breast cancer risks
This week I had a MUGA scan of my heart. This is a nuclear scan of the heart. Muga stands for Multiple-Gated Acquisition, a 40 minute test where the radioactive tracer injected into my bloodstream is tracked and followed by a gamma camera as I lay on a table with electrodes stuck to me and a machine records all of the activity. I began getting muga scans before starting my chemo therapy in December. Things looked fantastic then, as I scored a 69 and was told that 55 would be optimal. Then I had another scan in March showing slight decrease in heart function at a scoring result of 65. In July that number had gone down to 62. That’s when I began to worry that the remaining 5 months of therapy were going to do more damage, and I’d better to something to get my heart back into shape if I could. That’s when I joined the gym and for the last 6 weeks have been exercising rigorously 3 – 4 times a week. Tuesday’s scan showed a slight improvement and came in at 64, the ejection fraction which is an indicator of heart function. It is no wonder! I feel great and I feel strong and am not tired all the time like I was earlier in the summer. I will have another scan when chemo finishes after Christmas. What will a full 3 months of spin classes and treadmill do for me!? I can’t wait to find out!
I finished my 25th infusion of Herceptin yesterday and have just 5 more to go now before completion, just before Christmas. Then I will officially be done with one year of chemo therapy! While at the hospital, I got to meet with my new oncologist. This new doctor is actually the head of oncology at Walter Reed, and has agreed to take me on as his patient. I had begun an oral chemo medication in May, designed to block the hormone receptors which feed breast cancer, but I developed a reaction to it in the form of daily hives. After meeting with the doctor yesterday, I am no longer taking the medication and he sees no reason for me to take anything else orally. Because chemo therapy put me into early menopause and I am no longer producing the volume of hormones that I was prior to my surgery, he feels that I am not susceptible to the hormones feeding any rogue cancer cells. He feels that with the chemo therapy and Herceptin which I have been given, I have every possible chance of remaining cancer free. This was very good news to me, since the oral therapies given women after breast cancer carry with them some undesirable side effects and risky complications. My doctor believes this is mostly because the field of oncology just doesn’t know what else to do, and the fact that other than Herceptin, there have been no ground breaking breast cancer treatments in the last 30 years. We are still using surgery, chemo therapy, radiation and oral hormone blockers to fight recurrence. Despite all of this, women continue to get new breast cancers at epic proportions. I am reading and researching what are believed to be the major causes of breast cancer and find it interesting that so much is directed at funding the pharmacuetical companies and their studies but NOT determining and fighting the causes, namely hormones. That would put a lot of big name manufacturers out of business. Unfortunately beating cancer is very political and financial.
At any rate, I am feeling great and doing well, and look forward to celebrating my one year survival point next month! In celebration, I bought myself a new kayak last week! I loaded her up last weekend and went with a girlfriend out on the water Saturday! I call her MY SURVIVOR”SHIP“ ! Now, you may be wondering how I got that 42 pound boat up there all by myself while Tim was out of town? With much determination! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I don’t let much stop me anymore…that is one positive outcome in my fighting cancer – I have a new-found strength within. (In case you’re wondering, I bought Tim a matching kayak too.) Now when our local marina closes for the season at the end of September, we can still get out on the water and explore the local rivers during peak fall foliage! The leaves are already beginning to fall here in Virginia!
I loved what a new friend had recorded on her home answering machine the other day. After the usual message of “leave a message at the sound of the beep”, she reminded me of this:
The hand of God will not bring you to any trial where the grace of God will not protect you!
I want to share a wonderful song called Courage To Fly, by a group called Dichroic Glass. They are two couples making music together and recording CD’s to raise money for breast cancer research. Kristin, one of the members, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I met her by chance (well, by divine appointment 🙂 )and wanted to share the words of this song with you. Click on the video below to listen (click on the arrow) If that doesn’t work click HERE! Here’s the lyrics so you can follow along. Enjoy!
Courage To Fly
Well this past weekend Tim and I were kayaking out on The Occoquan again (this is practically an every week outing for us). The season is drawing to a close and we are hoping to purchase our own kayaks soon as the marina where we normally rent them is closing the end of this month. Once we have our own boats we can put in on any river at any point and will have much more exploring ahead of us!
Physical exercise has been key to me raising my energy levels and so I joined a gym. Yes! You heard me right, Gold’s Gym! I have never been a gym person. Those places have ALWAYS intimidated me, but my last heart scan was not very encouraging, showing a 10% loss in function since starting chemo. So, I laced up my tennis shoes and decided this is my time. My time to get fit, to feel healthy, to gain muscle, to lose fat and to strengthen my heart. I have been taking spin classes and also working out with weights and machines. I have been on the eliptical and treadmills and bikes, and am feeling better than ever! I have found several friends who go to the same gym, and so we meet there for classes together or to just have a partner next to each other on the machines. I also started taking iron supplements since my hemoglobin has been low and I was feeling so incredibly fatigued. This has seemed to help a lot. My next infusion will be Wednesday next week, and then the countdown begins! Five, Four, Three, Two One and Merry Christmas to me I will be done with chemo! What a celebration that will be!
The kids go back to school next week and the start of a new school year marks the one year point of my breast cancer diagnosis. It is hard to believe all that has happened in that amount of time. I am done looking back! Only looking forward now!