I realize that I haven't been as faithful posting during this second journey, and I do apologize for being a little neglectful. This second battle has been a little more difficult for me to share openly in this forum because it has been more emotional and mental. After being diagnosed and September and beginning chemo, I was told that I wouldn't be able to work as I had during my last round of chemo. This was not a decision made by my doctor, but by the company with whom I was employed. It is hard enough to hear you have cancer twice within a year, but having parts of your "normal" life taken away from you can pack a pretty heavy blow. I sunk into a severe state of depression. Thankfully, my oncologist had already put me on an anti-depressant. It wasn't until I had taken myself off that medication during this time that I realized how severe my depression was, and that I really did need something to help me cope. Since I couldn't spend all my time in my apartment and doctors' offices, I devised a plan to get myself out of the house for at least one hour a day. This definitely helped! Eventually, I fell into a rhythm and felt a little more like myself.
As I stated in a previous blog post, during the course of my treatment my short-term disability ended and I was approved for long-term disability. Per my company, I could not be an employee and be on long-term disability, so my employment was terminated on March 11th. This was one week before my final chemo treatment. This decision was very difficult for me. I felt a lot of different emotions, and most of them were not pleasant. I do believe God allows everything to happen for a reason, and I am convinced this is no exception!
It's now the beginning of July and so much has taken place. I had surgery on April 25th to remove all traces of the cancer. Thankfully, all pathology reports came back clear. We initially thought I would have to have a skin graft, but I have an AMAZING plastic surgeon who worked some serious magic to ensure that wasn't the case! I really recovered much better and faster than we had expected; so I was able to begin radiation a little sooner than expected. As of today, I have completed 28 of 33 radiation treatments. I started to experience some skin irritation from the radiation during the last 10 treatments. My underarm on the right side looks like someone has punched me! I like to say it is what Smurfette would look like if she were to spend a little too much time in the sun without smurftastic sunscreen. The skin on my chest feels a little scaly. I liken it to a dragon's skin. Not that I know what a dragon's skin feels like, but I have a wild imagination; so work with me here! I lather it up with coconut oil and all sorts of other lotions and ointments. They say it could look this way for a while or maybe forever...these are not things that I want to hear! If it does stay this way, I guess I'll just figure out a way to make it work!
Since I had everything removed in April, I had to get a prosthetic. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't at all what I expected. To be really honest, I absolutely despise the prosthetic! It is really heavy! Eventhough the weight doesn't calculate on the scale, it feels heavy when I wear it. I was really shocked by the lack of selection for the post-mastectomy bras! They are definitely not designed with younger women in mind. I laughed when the fitter showed me a bra and told me it was comparable to Victoria's Secret. Clearly, she has never been in Victoria's Secret! Since it's summer, and I wear a lot of sundresses and sleeveless tops I wanted a strapless bra. I knew I was in trouble when she said they only sold about 10 per year. It had to be ordered, so I'm faking it til I make it! I think I actually prefer the faking it becasue it doesn't cause strain on my back and neck or have to be readjusted to look similar to the other side! I'm telling you, I have to plan extra time when getting ready to be sure I allow enough time to make sure the prosthetic will line up right! Some days it just takes longer than others! At first, I thought I wouldn't have another reconstruction surgery, but after one day of dealing with the prosthetic that thought went straight out the window! I do have to deal with the prosthetic a little while longer since we will need to jump a few more hurdles before I can have the reconstruction surgery.
Once I finish radiation, I will begin taking Tamoxifen (a chemo drug taken daily). This will become part of my daily routine for the rest of my life. I will also have another PET scan this month. It's been 6 months since my last scan. That scan was clear, but I am really nervous about this next scan. I think these tests make every cancer patient/survivor a little anxious; however, I know one reason for my anxiety is my history, and how quickly the cancer returned last year. As long as things on my scan look good, I will then plan to move forward with the surgery I cancelled last year to have my ovaries removed. In the middle of all the medical junk, I am moving forward with next steps for me after this is all over. Those next steps are a little scary, but exciting at the same time. Over the next several weeks, you may notice some changes to this site as I prepare for some of those steps. I will share more here as things begin to take shape a little more. Until then you can pray that God will show me the direction in which He wants me to go and continue to make clear the open doors He wants me to walk through.