When I talked to my surgeon before the lumpectomy she said that breast cancer treatments are a temporary inconvenience. At the time we had no idea what kind of breast cancer it was (HER2+) nor the fact that I had the BRCA2 gene. So I named this blog “A Temporary Inconvenience” with the idea that soon I would be well and go on with my life.

The treatment for my cancer was to get rid of it with a lumpectomy.  That’s a temporary inconvenience.  Once I found out I was HER2+ that temporary became a year long preventive treatment process.  After I found out I had the BRCA2 gene I embarked on some more preventive treatment. I had a hysterectomy last November, 17 months after I originally felt my lump. Temporary was taking longer and longer.  I’m still considering a double mastectomy to reduce my risk of more breast cancer but for now I’m taking a break from treatments.

Less than two years ago I was only considered a little higher risk because my mother had breast cancer. She tested negative for the BRCA genes and there wasn’t a lot of breast cancer in her family or my father’s.  My father died of pancreatic cancer but both him and my mother were smokers. I have never smoked and have avoided being around second hand smoke ever since I moved out from my parents house.

Since I believed that both of my parents’ cancers were at least partly due to environmental factors I focused on reducing those risks factors.  I also worked on having better eating habits and regular exercise.  Little did I know I was carrying a time bomb in me (BRCA2 gene).

I think because of my long “temporary inconvenience” it’s been hard to write about having cancer.  My fears tell me it is something I want to avoid.  If I write about it then I will always be thinking about it.  But I have come to the conclusion that avoidance is all part of the grieving process.

Once you are a cancer survivor you have to go through a grieving process because you have lost your “old” self forever.  It’s not always easy to come to terms with your “new” self. Some people handle it better than others. I think it all depends on your diagnosis, prognosis, family history, your support group (family & friends), and your personal experience with survivors and non-survivors.

When I was in for a check-up with the surgeon in mid January she wanted me to get an MRI.  It was time for a routine check. She told me that the insurance companies were rejecting requests for MRI’s more often and I shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t pre-approve it. When I went to the front desk to have the receptionist fill out the request for pre-approval she said I shouldn’t have a problem.  I fit the criteria for high risk patients.  That statement hit me like a ton of bricks.

Lately I’ve been twittering http://twitter.com/jlscissors and have found several cancer survivors on there.  Suzanne at http://twitter.com/joinourloop had asked me to write a blog post about organizing and managing medical insurance papers for her blog;  http://joinourloop.blogspot.com/. It’s been a struggle because it force me to get back to writing about my cancer. It’s hard to avoid doing something when you told someone you would do it.

I’m still trying to find my “new” self.  It’s an ongoing process. By writing in here and the guest blog post I hope to move forward with the process instead of avoiding it.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

I haven’t written in here for a long time.  So much has happened since last April.  In May I found out I have the BRCA2 gene. This puts me in the high risk category for reoccurrence of breast cancer plus for ovarian cancer.  Mentally it has taken me several months plus professional help to come to terms with this fact.

In late June I finished my Herceptin treatments.  In July my oncologist gave me a clean bill of health and said to come back in 3 months.  After seeing a doctor every three weeks for almost a year, a 3 month period sounded great.  However, every time I don’t feel good my mind becomes illogical and the fears of a reoccurrence come front and center.

Before cancer, when I would get cold or allergy symptoms like I did in August I would see how each symptom was related to it.  Now, I worried about the cough that lingered for several weeks.  Was it just a cough or did the cancer spread to my lungs?  What about the sinus problems I continue to have (allergies) and some minor dizziness due to them? Do I now have cancer in my brain?

I’ve had these symptoms in the past and always attributed them to the allergies.  They eventually went away on their own.  But now, I second guess myself.  At the same time I don’t want to run to the doctor for every sniffle and sneeze I have.  It’s a fine balance, yet from what every survivor has told me it is totally normal to feel this way.

I guess when they say I will have a “new normal”,  these kinds of thoughts are all part of it.  Around 16 months ago I thought I was a healthy 54 year old who was looking at a bright future.  That image has been shattered.  The feeling of being so vulnerable is hard to accept.  But I have no choice.  I have to learn to live with this new normal and make the most of it.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

I heard from the doctor’s office and the biopsy came back negative.  I feel great but also drained. The waiting is what is so hard.  You hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  It’s the preparing for that possible sucker punch that takes everything out of you.

Now I have to get myself back into normal work mode.  I usually send out my weekly newsletter (http://cutclutterwithscissors.com) but I’m behind this week.  It’s hard to focus on writing when my future health was hanging in the balance.  No more excuses.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

I’ve been listening to the song “If I Were Brave” by Jana Stanfield on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nx4JkCALec

It’s been a rough five days.  Last Friday my doctor called and said something showed up on the MRI I had the previous Monday.  Nothing had shown on the mammogram or the MRI before the contrast was put in.  She said many times the MRI has false positives but we can’t take any chances.

Yesterday I had an ultrasound and biopsy.  The radiologist seem optimistic about the outcome but told me my doctor would let me know within 48 hours.  It’s been 36 so far and I still don’t know.

I have tried to keep myself busy and stay optimistic but that devil on my shoulder stubbornly keeps showing up.  I keep telling myself if I were brave I would not get so down.  Whatever happens I will deal with it head on.

A lot to tears have been shed these past few days.  A lot of fears have overloaded my thoughts.  But I am grateful for a wonderful husband and supportive family and friends.  That’s what is important.

If I were brave I would shout out my fears and I would shout out my joys and not worry about what others think of me.  If I were brave I would write about how I feel about the world around me and not worry if my words sounded corny.  Maybe, just maybe, others will enjoy what I have to say.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

Thirteen down and four more to go.  Yesterday was another Herceptin day.  It’s been more than 24 hours and I still feel pretty good.  I usually get the shivers (no fever) and can’t warm up.  Today I have actually felt warm.  Maybe because it is 62 degrees and sunny instead of in the 40’s and rainy.

My echocardiogram and mammogram were good.  The bone density showed the beginning of osteopenia.  Two out of three isn’t too bad.  I guess this is the least of the evils.

My doctor wants me to start taking Evista.  I hate taking any medicines.  After reading some of the lifestyle factors that cause osteopenia I have very few.  I don’t smoke and never have.  I rarely drink colas or alcohol.  I get outside a fair amount to walk my dog and try to be active with weight baring exercise.  I am in my first year of menopause so that is one strike against me.

I asked the doctor if she thought it was caused by the chemotherapy but she didn’t think so.  I think so and that is what I’m going to believe.  I guess it really doesn’t matter the cause because I have to deal with it anyway.

So far I have had very few hot flashes in my first year of menopause.  I read that is one of the side effects of Evista.  What a bummer.

A year ago I was a healthy 54 year old and was looking to take even better care of myself to help me live a long and healthy life.  I try to be positive with my thinking but that dream seems out of reach now.

I know age is a factor but I never expected to feel like I aged 20 years or more in a matter of 11 months.  I wanted to age gracefully by doing all the right things like eating healthy, exercising, and being happy.

I pray that in the not too distant future I can feel more like the age of my peers again and not like my mother’s generation.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

This week has been a week of tests.  On Tuesday I had a bone density test.  That was easy.  I know chemotherapy drugs can have an effect on the density of my bones but I’m hoping they are still as strong as ever.  I’ve never had the test before so there won’t be anything to compare it with.

Today I had an echocardiogram.  Because of the Herceptin I have one of these every three months to make sure I’m not having any of the side effects that damage the heart.  Fortunately only a small percentage of people have problems and so far I haven’t had any.

I also had a mammogram this morning.  It was the first one since I was diagnosed.  I was a little nervous.  Ok, a lot nervous.  Anyway, I got there early (scheduled after the echocardiogram) but they said it wasn’t a problem.  While sitting and waiting I tried to keep myself calm.  After watching quite a few other women go ahead of me I was beginning to wonder what was going on.

When it was 20 minutes past my scheduled time I asked one of the staff why I hadn’t been called.  Somehow the front registration area did not send the right information to the back area so they didn’t have my name.  Go figure.  By this time I was fighting back the tears.

Fortunately the preliminary exam of the mammogram by the radiologist was good news.  Everything looks fine.

I made an appointment with my breast doctor (surgeon) for a six month exam.  I still need to make an appointment for a yearly gynecological exam.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be going to so many doctors at the age of 54.  A yearly exam by my internist and gynecologist plus twice a year dental cleanings has been the norm for many years.  It’s hard to keep from getting depressed by it all.

But I try to smile and look at the bright side.  I’m alive and it looks like I’m going to stay that way for awhile.  Hopefully, a long while!

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

http://twitter.com/jlscissors

I went in to talk to a genetic counselor today.  She explained that I have a 50/50 chance of having the BRCA2 gene like my sister.  I will have the blood test done in a few weeks when I have blood drawn before my April Herceptin treatment.  No reason to get stuck in the arm any more than necessary.

My last treatment left me feeling some extreme fatigue by the evenings for about three days.  The weather had been nice so I was able to get outside and enjoy it during the daytime.  Usually I don’t have too many side effects from the Herceptin but being depressed so much that week may have contributed to that.

After that I started getting into my work (writing articles, blogs, newsletters) that I didn’t think much about the cancer at all.  This is a good thing.  Everyone told me there will come a time that the cancer thoughts are not in the fore front of my daily thinking.  Yea!  I’m getting there more days than not.

I know a lot of people move on with their lives as soon as treatment is over. Many woman deal with the side effects of Tomoxifen and other target drugs but because I have to go back to the doctor’s office every three weeks it’s hard to mentally move on.

At least with the flowers starting to bud out all over it helps put a smile on my face.  I love Spring time.  Each year it’s a new beginning.  A chance to start over.

These pictures are in my front yard.

IMGP0149 IMGP0148

This is at Forest Park in St. Louis.

IMGP0167 IMGP0179

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

The last few days have been hard for me mentally.  I’m feeling depressed.  I have a tendency to self-analyze what has been going on in my life to make me feel this way.  Once I find a cause I set about doing something to correct the problem.  That is what I have been doing the last three days.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and did not sit in front of my light-box for the last week.  I was in Portland, Oregon last Tues through Sat and it was cloudy and cold most of the time.  No light-box and no getting out in the sun.  That’s part of the depression.

I have my Herceptin treatment tomorrow morning.  Because I am still in treatment every three weeks I am reminded that I am still a cancer patient not just a cancer survivor.  In between  treatments I am starting to feel good physically and mentally.  It’s just the couple of days before where I start getting depressed.

I also found out that my older sister tested positive for the BRCA2 gene.  Her breast cancer was found on a monogram last November.  My mother was tested a few years ago after her second bout of breast cancer and she was negative.  With my sister being positive I will talk to my doctor about gene testing.  One more thing to worry about.  No wonder I feel depressed.

This temporary inconvenience is taking a long time.  Tomorrow will be the 11th treatment of Herceptin.  Only 6 more to go after that.

Maybe if it starts warming up outside I will feel better. Spring is a time for new beginnings.  I’m ready for a new beginning.

IMGP0902_edited-1

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

I went in yesterday to have my Herceptin treatment.  That was the 10th treatment out of 17.  Only seven more to go.  Yea!

The best part about yesterday was when the oncology nurse asked if I have had the 30 minute treatment yet.  I asked her what she was talking about.  Apparently research has found that the Herceptin can be given as a 30 minute IV drip instead of the 90 minutes.  Since I haven’t had any problems with the treatment so far I was a candidate for the faster one.  It was so nice to just sit there for only 30 minutes instead of 90.

I had brought some work to do and a book to read.  I also brought a bottle of water and a snack.  No more.  Next time I will only need to bring a book or magazine or my MP3 player.  It will be so much less stressful knowing I won’t be spending at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours between the doctor’s appointment and treatment.

“Normal” is beginning to feel more and more like “normal” again.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

This has been a good week.  I got up Monday morning and didn’t have to go to radiation.  Yea!  Instead I did my normal routine that I was doing before I got breast cancer.

I ate breakfast, wrote in my journal, went on my treadmill, and then sat down at my computer to start working on my Internet business.  It felt so weird to have a “normal” day.

In the beginning everyone told me a time would come when my thoughts were not consumed by breast cancer all day.  This week I have finally reached that point for most of the day.

Of course, I still think about it daily, just not all day long.  I still worry sometimes if some cells are lurking somewhere in my body.  I haven’t had a mammogram or any other screening test since last summer.  I have an appointment with my doctor on the 11th for another Herceptin treatment.  I will write down questions to ask her about screening.

In the meantime I will get back to work on writing my new ebook.  It keeps my mind on a positive future.

Janice

http://cutclutterwithscissors.com

http://organizebythemonth.com

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