Archive for March, 2011

A Voice
March 31, 2011

One of the most exciting things about being named Honorary Race Chair for this year’s Siouxland Komen Race For the Cure is the opportunity to be a voice in yet one more way. I noticed that traffic to this blog has picked up since the various press releases and interviews regarding the race. Last night, I received a blog comment from Sue Nielsen, a friend that I met through the Cancer Center and my Rx Health class. She too, is a Breast Cancer survivor. She told me in her comment that she has three treatments remaining and then, she too has decided to become one of the minority and have her port removed. It has been nearly a week since I did that and I am still in the process of healing so it isn’t a real noticeable difference yet. There is enough swelling still that it kind of feels like I still have a port. But I don’t, and that is the main thing. That may not be the right decision for everyone, but for me, it was. I really feel good about it. To have done otherwise would have felt like I was offering an open invitation to the cancer to return to my body and my life. That just doesn’t work for me. I am excited for Sue to be down to her last three treatments and I am excited that she too will soon be sans port. Sue – I hope that you will continue following my blog and welcome any and all comments that will help me in my quest to spread awareness and understanding of breast cancer. We are survivors! YAY!

Later.

The Siouxland Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure is Sunday, May 8. To join my team, Cathy’s Light Brigade, or to make a donation, click here. http://bit.ly/eRYr8f

Focus For the Cure
March 28, 2011

 Last Thursday, KCAU came out to my office and interviewed me for their Focus For the Cure series. That interview aired last night.

http://www.kcautv.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=5698224&a…&rnd=41952752

Hopefully, it will do a bit to increase awareness of the upcoming Siouxland Komen Race For the Cure, to be held Sunday, May 8. Family and friends have once again entered Cathy’s Light Brigade and we are inviting any and all of you to join our team and/or contribute to the cause. You can do so by visiting my personal Siouxland Komen Race page at http://bit.ly/eRYr8f

Why not just go ahead and do it right now, before it slips your mind. We’d love to have you join us. Here are a couple of photos from last year. It’s a great time. Very emotional and inspirational. And, a GREAT cause. Looking forward to it and to hearing from you.

 By the way, I’ve noticed the page visits increasing and just want to remind you that if you are a regular reader of Beyond Cathy’s Tunnel, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of this page and type in your email. This will allow you to receive email updates whenever a new comment is posted. Thanks all, for your support.

And now, just one more thing. If you’ve not yet visited the Siouxland Komen Race for the Cure Facebook page, here is a quick link. http://on.fb.me/eWrcUt It would be great if you would visit the page and click on LIKE to help generate more support for the cause. Thanks again.

Later.

When I’m 64
March 27, 2011

Woke up stiff and sore this morning after our marathon cleaning session yesterday, with the Beatles song, When I’m 64, going through my head. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCss0kZXeyE Matt had given us the complete Beatles collection for Christmas and we were playing it while we worked so it was apparently still on my mind. I remember one of the weirdest college professors ever dressing up like one of the Beatles and doing that song at a faculty talent show. It was just kind of a fun song and, at the time, being 64 seemed like a lifetime away. My parents weren’t even 64 then…in fact, I don’t think my grandma was either. 64?

But, all of a sudden 64 takes on a whole new perspective. I’m not there yet, but I will have to admit that I can see it from here. Now, suddenly, 64 doesn’t seem old. And, even if it is, so what? After the past year, I celebrate the fact that I will, one of these days, be turning 64. I’m a survivor!!

Later.

I’m Back!!
March 26, 2011

Finally, a chance to sit down. I’m bone tired. A week ago we made arrangements to have the ceiling replaced in our living room. An ice dam issue several years ago had left the ceiling cracked and scarred. It had been patched but just wasn’t what we wanted. So we decided to have it replaced. Last Sunday, while I was in Norfolk for Kelli’s shower, Ken moved everything out of that room and for the entire last week, furniture and everything else that had been in there was crammed into the dining room, sun room and office. Yesterday afternoon, Ken was able to get the ceiling painted so today our priority was to put the room back in order. We didn’t want to just move everything in without taking the opportunity to do some deep cleaning. So we have been cleaning the carpet, washing woodwork and walls, cleaning all the glass (our home has lots of natural woodwork and beveled glass), the blinds, etc. A huge job, but we’re finally done and it looks great. We now are back to the restful ambience of sea and shore which we have created for ourselves in there. Sitting here just now, it occurred to me that the living room experience is akin to what I personally have just gone through.

For the past year and a half, I have been carrying around a scarred version of my body with a foreign body under the skin that didn’t belong there. Yesterday it was removed and the skin sewn back together as it belongs. On Monday I will be able to remove the dressing and scrub and clean the area. That is the final step in putting my life back in order and moving on. Our beautiful, peaceful living room is back and so am I.

Later.

Superstition
March 24, 2011

Well, I did it again. Don’t know why, but with surgery to remove my port scheduled for tomorrow, I googled the subject today. The overwhelming majority of people indicated that their doctors recommended leaving the port in for 1-2 years. Many said they were superstitious about removing it before then. What?

It seems to me that being afraid to remove it indicates that you expect the cancer to return. Leaving it in feels like you’re not really finished with treatment. My doctor also said that typically people leave them in for 1-2 years. I just can’t do that. In spite of all that I read, I just can’t do that. I WANT it out. I understand the consequences and I will admit that I do feel a slight apprehension…mainly because I seem to be part of an overwhelming minority. That, and the fact that I have only been out of treatment for 1-2 months, not 1-2 years. But, that doesn’t change things. This is what I want and those close to me can affirm that I can be quite passionate about things in which I believe. My husband occasionally refers to it as stubborn rather than passionate :).

So, tomorrow is the day. I’ll take a last long hard look at that foreign body poking out of my skin and then let it go.

Later.

The Interview
March 23, 2011

Oh my gosh. I was interviewed today for the KCAU Focus For the Cure series which airs Sunday night. I wasn’t nervous when I did it, though it did seem like the camera was awfully close. 🙂 However, now I’m thinking about it and am wondering whether or not I said anything meaningful. I can’t remember. Isn’t that weird. I sure hope I did. I guess we’ll know in a couple of days. I really hope I did. Later.

The Decision
March 20, 2011

Last week was a tough week. I just wasn’t feeling well and I let my mind get the best of me. For one thing, I was incredibly tired. Even more so than usual and that is going some. But, the big thing was I was experiencing some significant pain and it was playing with my head. My shoulder hurt and I kept thinking it would go away, but it didn’t. Several years ago, my neighbor, Sharon, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through treatment and was supposedly cancer free. But a couple of months later, she developed pain in her shoulder. She thought it was bursitis. It wasn’t. The cancer had come back. She passed away several months later.

I started burning up Google to find anything I could on bone mets, shoulder pain, etc. From what I can determine, breast cancer which metastasizes to the bone is not uncommon. When this happens, it is not uncommon that the shoulder is one of the first places it may show up. My mind began convincing me that this is what I was experiencing. If you recall, I have an appointment next Friday to have my port removed. I could hardly sleep thinking about the possibility of bone mets and wondering if I should cancel that appointment. If it is bone mets, odds are, from what I read, that chemotherapy would again be in order.

Now, I’m quite sure that everyone who has ever had cancer has had these types of fears. I’m not sure how you can go through this once and not experience some paranoia on the other side. It has to be part of making that transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. But, hopefully, it becomes less of an issue over time. I have learned that when I am worried about something, the Internet is not my friend. It is so easy to find information to support almost anything that you fear. It is so easy to find forum postings that are absolute horror stories.

I decided to take a different route this week-end. I decided to look up side effects of Femara, the anti-hormone drug that I have been taking for 6 months and which I will continue to take for another 4 1/2 years. And there it was…over and over. Postings from people who claimed that they were experiencing significant bone and joint pain, particularly shoulder pain, while taking Femara. There were other things too, which are exactly what I am experiencing…how I am feeling. For example, many people claim that when they stand after having been seated for awhile, they can barely walk. They feel like they are 90 years old. The same thing happens to me. Fortunately, it passes quickly and I can then move freely. It’s annoying, but not debilitating. I do have some pain in my knees and now, as of this week, pain in my shoulder. But it’s all there…documented evidence that others taking Femara feel exactly the same way. Yes…breast cancer patients sometimes do end up with bone mets. And, yes…the shoulder is often involved. But I just had a check-up three weeks ago and all of my blood work was fine. There is no reason to think that the cancer suddenly metastasized to the bone.

We’ve all been listening to the reports on the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. So we’ve learned that while the incoming waves can strike with devastating force, the power of the retreating waves can be equally devastating as they pull people and objects back out to sea with them . So it is with cancer. The initial diagnosis and period of treatment is so hard. But, it is then followed by a period of adjustment that can be equally devastating as the powers of the mind continue to try to pull you back to a dark place…a place where you don’t want to be. I refuse to let that happen. To allow that to happen would be to allow cancer to control my life. I have just regained control and don’t intend to give it up. So…the appointment stands. I take back the confidence I felt when I originally scheduled the appointment and this Friday, I will be at the Surgery Center to have my port removed. I’m happy about that.

And, by the way, as of today, the shoulder pain has disappeared.

Later.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
March 17, 2011

The smell of Corned Beef and Cabbage cooking has brought back memories of St. Patrick’s Day, 2010. I was cooking Corned Beef and Cabbage on that day, too. We love it, but I only fix it once a year. I was looking forward to it because it smelled so good, but, at the time, I was smack dab in the middle of chemo treatments. I remember taking that first bite and nearly breaking into tears. Only someone who has gone through chemo can understand how different Corned Beef and Cabbage, or anything else, can taste when mixed with all of the toxic chemicals in your system. It was terrible. I had totally forgotten about that until preparing for tonight’s meal. It’s not ready yet, but I have high hopes for it to be considerably better than last year. Life is good! 🙂

Later.

Are You Serious?
March 15, 2011

I am blown away by a phone call I just received from Julie Maas, co-chair of the 2011 Komen Siouxland Race For the Cure. We met prior to last year’s Race when I made numerous trips to their office to turn in donations that I had collected. She and apparently several others have been following my blog (apparently among that “silent majority” that I was always so curious about 🙂 ) and has been unable to get me out of her mind all year. (Scary thought, huh?)

ANYWAY, she asked me if I would consider accepting the very first honorary chair position for this year’s race. I was almost speechless. Me? Seriously? ABSOLUTELY! I am thrilled and honored and excited and…

It’s funny, because just this week I have been talking with family members and we are in the process of setting up our team. My sister, Susan, has volunteered to serve as team captain again and it sounds like pretty much my entire family will be participating this year. This has nothing to do with the honorary chair invitation. This is something we had planned on anyway, but it makes it that much more special. The Race was so emotional for me last year. I was in the middle of chemotherapy and suffering from neuropathy so that I had to use a cane to complete the short route. But I DID it, and that was my goal. This year will be better. Hope to accomplish the longer route, sans cap and cane as I said the other day. For those of you who may have missed this on my first blog, here is a short post I made regarding the Race…

Great Memory

I was on the Siouxland Komen site the other day and noticed that they had a link to the video of the Siouxland Race For the Cure. I watched the whole thing and felt some of the same emotions I felt that morning as so many people gathered to walk/run to raise money for breast cancer.

Here is the video…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sDNTNWr9zE

It’s kind of long, so if you’re pressed for time, I’ll tell you that you can catch a glimpse of our team, Cathy’s Light Brigade, at approximately 4:45 (look for the bright green shirts and flourescent green sign). You can also catch me crossing the finish line at approximately 7:04. Enjoy. – End post.

 
So looking forward to this years event and feeling so honored to be asked to be the honorary chair. I’ll let you know when our team web site is set up. This is the one and only cancer event for which I tap my friends for donations. It’s personal. Thanks for sharing.
 
Later.

The Silent Sufferer
March 14, 2011

In thinking about what should/should not be said/done when someone is diagnosed with cancer, I realized that there is something that absolutely should be mentioned here.

The spouse/significant other/caregiver. A cancer diagnosis of someone very close to you is absolutely devastating. It is scary. It is emotional. It is life-changing. Yet, too often, we don’t think to ask them how they are doing…how they feel…how they are holding up…if there is anything we can do for them. They are the silent sufferer.

I remember when I was diagnosed, and someone I work with who had never met Ken, emailed him to ask how he was doing and to tell him that if he wanted to talk or needed anything that he was there for him. He offered his prayers. Ken was so moved by this that he still talks about it today.

When I think about all of the hours that Ken spent sitting with me at doctor’s appointments, chemo appointments, in the hospital for multiple surgeries. etc. it is really incredible. It wasn’t just my life that was changed for about a year and a half. It was his as well. And I would venture to say that every cancer patient has someone or several someones just like him.

So, this is just a heads up to remember that person the next time you find yourself in a situation like this. Not just in cancer…in every illness. You may never know how much your comfort and concern might mean to them.

Thanks, Ken, for always being there and for being my rock.

Later.