Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Face up to fear…

July 12, 2010

So this is the wrapper off of my Dark Chocolate Dove bar from last week.  I thought it kind of funny, given that I have another medical issue to deal with for the forseeable future.  Then last night, my left hand pinkie finger went numb.  Then my hand and a bit up my arm.  Lasted for more than 4 hours.  Not exactly numb, but more like a “pins and needles” sensation.  I’m at the point now, where my emotions are kind of crazy.  I was pissed off, scared and disgusted all at once…..what is this?  A Stroke? Problem with the Coumadin?  One of the other drugs?  Something from the surgery??  Sixteen months, and I am sick and tired of dealing with it all, and would like to just get on with life already.  Today my NP from Primary Care Doc-Man called back and said, not life threatening, put an ice pack on it. 

So there.  Not a day to die, but a day for ice packs.  I win again!


Late again…

April 11, 2010

Well, it has been quite some time since I last wrote here.  Not because I didn’t have anything to say, that is for sure.  But no, it has been due to my newest malady which has proven that cancer is not the only thing that can slip invisibly into your life and create a new daily reality. 

About a month ago, in late February, I saw Dr. Evans, my general practitioner, for a regular cholesterol check.  At the time, I was beginning to feel extremely run down.  Just going to school every day was a task that seemed to require a Herculean effort.  There were days when I came home that I had to tell myself that I really could make it into the house, and I really could make dinner, and I really could get through the night….if I could just get out of the car…  It was a bad time, and I was not able to complete the essentials of work and family life.  Each day I felt like I was getting deeper and deeper into a hole, and I was so tired, I could hardly even think.  Thankfully Evans included a test for TSH, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.  The blood test indicated that I was extremely hypothyroid, meaning that my thyroid was not producing very much of the important thyroid hormone.  Thus the reason for the extreme fatigue.  Other side effects were  a sudden weight gain, slurring of speech, “choking up” feeling in my neck, puffy in the face, neuropathy in my hands, and very sensitive to the cold. in February.  in Ohio.  Oh, and depression too.  Yea, like I needed that.

When nurse BJ called me with the news, I remember being so tired, and thinking, “great.  what pill do I need?  how in the hell am I going to get to the pharmacy to get it?” Thankfully, the medicine I have seems to be effective, and while I don’t feel great yet, I am so much better than I was a month ago.

Except I feel as though I am still “behind” in everything.  I can look around my house and see ten things that I am way behind on.  The second I wake up in the morning I am working really hard to be super efficient  with my school work, but I always, at the end of each day feel as though I’ll never get caught up.  It is such a discouraging feeling, and then throw a few technology difficulties in the mix, and well…sometimes it all………..doesn’t get done.  It is such a newer, higher level of frustration I get to experience now…..which is why I’ve been spending more time daily in meditation.

Lucky for me, I got to see Veronica from The Victory Center twice in her last month there, and she introduced me to a new CD called The Divine Name by Gregg Braden* and Jonathan Goldman**.  I can hardly describe the powerful positive effect this particular sound therapy has had for me, except to say that it is awesome.  Each night I listen to this recording or the chanting on the “Dali Lama” CD, and many mornings as well.  The days I skip this routine, I can tell the difference.  More cognitive dissonance.  So I try real hard to get to my bed early enough in the evening to listen to these recordings.  For so many years I have been chasing the idea of meditation, I am grateful to have finally found a place to begin.


Just another thing I am late in doing….I’d like to thank the anonymous woman who handed me this beautiful bouquet last month in the parking lot of Kroger’s in Perrysburg.  It was a very low energy moment for me, and the gift of the pink roses proves that Karma and the spirit of JBN (Just Be Nice) is so very real.

*  **


March 6, 2010

Well, today is a cancerversary of sorts.  On May 6, 2009, Dr. Butler told me, while she was inspecting the sample she removed during the biopsy, “Well if that doesn’t come back positive, I’m going to do it again.”  I had no idea what she meant.  Positive for what?  Bad juju?  Positive for negative stuff?  Oh the days of such naiveté!!

Now, exactly one year to the day later, I have an unexplained swelling under/over or in my expander implant on my right side that is getting big enough to pull the skin on my chest, including the irradiated skin which doesn’t stretch, so I can feel the pulling clear around on my back on the left side.  It is creepy, uncomfortable, and scary.  I’ve talked to the nurses from my radiation oncologist, and plastic surgeon and as long as there is no sign of infection, the best they can offer me is appointments next week.  Sigh………… That does not seem like a good enough answer.

In the mean time, I am completely exhausted…… apparently this is from the new issue, Thyroid problems, from which Dr. E, my G.P. has prescribed Levothyroxin.  Apparently this malady makes you very tired.  Check mark that.  I’m exhausted.  I managed to assist one student early this morning with an extracurricular competition at Four County Vocational School in Archbold OH in the student organization FCCLA (Family, Career, Community Leaders of America…..the updated new millenium version of FHA, Future Homemakers of America) and lucky for both of us, he received a good enough score to move on to the next level of competition, the State competition….while I am just trying to figure out how in the hell I am going to move out of bed right now.  How am I going to grade papers this weekend?  It is officially Saturday night and I’ve only graded about a half of an inch of papers in a 3 inch pile?  How am I going to get some decent lesson plans in order for my substitute for at least the 2 -3 days I’ll be off next week for Dr. appointments? 

I’m just having a hard time thinking through all of it.  Current conditions: Exhausted.  Hard time thinking, processing cognitively.  Extremely uncomfortable expanding “expander implant”  side boob.  Skin uncomfortable. Pressure on lungs making deep breathing difficult.  Very hoarse voice.  Slurred speech when talking for any length of time.  Extremely dry skin.  Hands uncomfortable.  Yellowish skin tint in hands. Swelling in eyes.  

I sure hope I feel well enough to go hang with the Unitarians tomorrow.  I especially hope and pray that this current business clears up soon and does not interfere with my vacation plans for Spring Break.  I don’t even want to think about that……

Wish I knew what to do next.

Fish Bowl

October 6, 2009

Well finally I get to get back here to write.  Yesterday I had technical difficulties which really threw me for a loop.  So far this forum, this place to write has really been one of the best things I have done throughout this whole ordeal.  The writing has sustained me, and once in a great while someone tells me something nice about it, and that gives me a big boost, too.  So being denied the chance to write placed me in a baaaadddd mood last night.

Yesterday, Monday, was radiation number four.  I now feel like I have two personalities when I drive into the parking garage at Hickman Cancer Center.  A big part of me is grateful, and just happy to be here, another part of me is annoyed, and crabby.  I know I need to keep the crabby girl in check.  Nobody wants to be around a crabby old lady who is consumed with thoughts of diet, exercise, and disease.  Including me.   I even annoy myself sometimes.


So I went to the hospital early yesterday thinking I was going to just sit in the fishbowl and relax and read for awhile before my appointment.  The “fishbowl” is a waiting room with a big fish tank in the middle of it.  They call it the fishbowl so the shell-shocked new patients have a focus on what to look for as they move down the hallway to their next waiting point, and for those of us who are past that day, it is a reference point of which (of the many) waiting area we are supposed to go to.   To wait.  A lot of waiting going on.  Many opportunities to observe multiple layers of humanity.

Yesterday an older woman was there for her first visit, you could tell by the way the nurse introduced herself.  This woman was there with her husband, and had the vacant stare of fatigue and apprehension that must be fairly common in us newbies.  I had the urge to say something to her, but what?  What could I offer?  Not much, really.  I am just beginning down this path myself.  I am mostly only pretending that I know what I am doing here.  Eventually my mind will catch up.

Right now I have to go, but I’ll be back to finish this post later.



A short list of the things I miss

August 23, 2009

Last night Lou and I saw the movie Julie and Julia.  It was great, especially Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child.  Wow!  WOW!  WOW!!!  And all the food………..ohhh my goodness.  I loved it, loved it, loved it!!  When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the food.  And then I realized just how much, how terribly much I miss “the food”.  I think one of the things I have missed the most this summer is not being able to COOK.   Oh, I can kinda’ cook.  I can make a basic dinner with convenience foods and a few fresh ingredients.  I have enough stamina to make it through the grocery store, and get the food into the house.  I have enough strength now to be able to get the Caphalon pans off the rack and onto the stove.  But I have discovered, I must keep it all very simple, or else I run out of steam before the dish is done.  I can’t even tell you how many beautiful bunches of basil have been denied the opportunity to become a perfect pesto because they wilted into oblivion in my fridge before I had the opportunity and energy to put the simple recipe together.  And the swiss chard, especially the rainbow chard…sighhhh…I just felt so so bad, and so sad to throw several bunches out over the last couple months.  Beautiful rainbow chard gone to waste is a terrible thing.  I have started with great intentions, and think a recipe through carefully, plan around what I anticipate will be “my good days” purchase the ingredients ahead of time, and somehow it frequently hasn’t happened, but certainly not for lack of desire or will.

I also miss strength and stamina.  Just pulling four dinner plates out of the cupboard takes effort.  Actually I can’t even do that, it’s more like two at a time, and even that is not all that easy.  Closing the back door of the minivan…that hurts, too.  Even pulling weeds out of the garden requires planning, have to save that for the “good days” and all I can manage to evict then are the shallow rooted invaders.  This lack of upper body strength makes me feel so oldwhen I have never felt old before.  I am working really hard to continually, everyday, try to do a little more, but it seems like I take two steps forward, and then one, and sometimes two steps backwards.  The lymphadema issue on my left side, that is a real thing.  So, I guess I really miss those lymph nodes, too.  All these years I have taken them for granted….well no more.  I’m grateful for all the lymph nodes I still have left.  You should love your lymph nodes and appreciate them for all they do.

I miss fearlessness.  I didn’t realize until this year, how relatively fearless I have lived life.  In fact, I don’t think I really experienced much fear until I had babies.  When I had babies, they came with “parent fear”…if you are a parent you know what I am talking about….the fear that something, someone, some unknown factor will hurt your beautiful and perfect child.  Of course, “parent fear” comes and goes with the news stories of the day or the shriek of a child…..  But now….geez…cancer……somehow it invites itself into your tissues and divides uncontrollably.  Then, if you are lucky like me, you find it before it really threatens to kill youand get it in a body part that is non-essential (sorry about that breasts), and a good surgeon can “cut it out”.  But you know what they can’t cut out?  That nagging fear that some how, some rouge cancer cell snuck out of the core tumor and has been hiding from the chemotherapy, is out of the line of fire of radiation, and just waiting to make a ‘comeback”.  The small discomforts of normal aging now make you think with a paranoid edge.  Could that nagging backache be something bad happening in my bone marrow?  How many times have I had that little pain in my head….and has it been in the same spot….and maybe I should mark it with a “Sharpie’ so I can keep track of it…maybe I should make a log of the times I’ve felt it…..  I don’t know how to find the balance between merely paying attention to my body and being paranoid about every little thing, little pains I feel.  I don’t like it much, being paranoid.

Yesterday I made a trip to Office Max to buy one of those rolling cart things for when I do eventually return to school (hopefully by the mid to end of September) because, of course, I’ll probably not be able to actually carry stuff back and forth like before.  While in the cashier line, I saw this pretty teenage girl, I kind of didn’t recognize her at first…and realized it was Emily, a quiet and thoughtful student I had in my class for two years in a row.  Boy, over the summer she has grown, looks more mature.  I chatted with her and her mother for a few minutes as we all walked to our cars.  I put my bags in my car, got in, and surprisingly and uncontrollably burst into tears.  Wow…what was that all about?  I think I just miss teaching, I miss my school, I miss the camaraderie of my teacher friends and fabulous secretaries, but most of all, I miss the kids.  Seeing a student really hit me right in the emotional gut, I’m not where I am supposed to be right now.  I am supposed to be in the classroom, with all the ups and downs of teaching, it is all about connecting with kids, and helping them learn and grow and become more mature.  And I’m missing it.  Yea, I know I’ll get there, but today I’m missing it.

There’s lots of other things I miss too, like having free time.  I’m sick of taking every available moment to study my treatments options, filling out medical paperwork, researching medical facilities and doctors, etc.  I know that it is shallow and only temporary, but I miss my hair.  In air conditioned rooms, my head is cold.  With cooler temps finding their way to Ohio, my head is cold.  I miss planning anything.  I always have to think, well, if I am OK on that day I can…..  I hate having to live one day at a time.   People who tell me to just live one day at a time don’t actually have to live their life that way.  It is easy to say, very hard to do.  I miss taking “feeling good” for granted.  I didn’t realize how most of my life I always felt good.  Now, when I feel good, I really notice it and appreciate it so much.

Sigh.  I’ll quit whining now.  At least for today, I get to go hang out with the Unitarians.  And that is something to be grateful for.

Irrational fear.

July 20, 2009

So today is Monday, four days after chemo, and I’m feeling kind of OK.  I was able to get up and walk for 25 minutes this morning, and followed up with an hour of  rest.  Other than the horrible and icky mettalic taste in my mouth, the general fatigue, and slight achiness in my bones, I feel pretty good.  And that is what kind of scares me. 

I have read a fair amount on this subject, but I am still worried…..I seem to be handling chemotherapy remarkably well.  Does this mean that I’m not getting a strong enough regemin?  If my other cells aren’t suffering, then maybe the potential cancer cells that are possibly floating around in my body are completely free to do as they please.  It’s not that I want to be suffering, but I just want this chemo experience to be doing the job………  And intellectually, I know these thoughts are completely irrational, and they should not be entering my mind.  

Hmmmnnnn.  I guess this is anxiety creeping into my consciousness again. 

I just wish I could be sure of anything right now.

24 hours and all is well…

June 20, 2009

Well, it has been more than 24 hours since my first infusion of Taxotere and Cytoxin, my personal medical recipe for Chemotherapy, and all is still well.  I had a good nights sleep, woke up really hungry, had breakfast and coffee, and still felt well!  This morning I actually gave myself an injection (yes, that is with a needle) of “Neulasta” , a drug which is used to stimulate the bone marrow to make more white blood cells.  According to my medical literature, “chemotherapy may reduce the body’s ability to make normal white blood cells, and thus fight infections”. 

Also in my IV last night (in addition to the “anxiety medication” ) was a long lasting antidote for nausea, which is supposed to last for 3 to 4 days.  So I am going to start crossing all my fingers and toes on Sunday, plus I have a ‘script for meds specifically for nausea and the number for Jane, my nurse practioner extrordinairre, along with her “pager’ number.  I have been told to take the drugs at the very first queasy moment, and then call them if I start to “hurl”.  They want to know!  Cool!  At U of M puking is serious business to be avoided, and I have been assured that if it becomes a problem, they care, have other drugs to try,  and will work to fix it.

Another side effect I’ve been told to expect is fatigue…..well, that has been a companion for awhile now, and that one is fairly easy to fix.  Although when I took a long nap a few days ago, Louie woke me up with the fascinating news that he had just learned how to make a stink bomb with a tennis ball, lots of dog hair, and a sparkler for a fuse!  Thanks a lot YouTube!  So now I am a little wary with this sudden interest grooming Kia, the dog……..

Now, “chemo-brain” is a more elusive potential side effect the medical professionals address more warily…….they suggest that it is fleeting for some, nonexistant for others, and perhaps an extension of one’s typical “space cadet” status….  Oh dear.  I have to write lesson plans for 18 weeks for two new classes I am teaching next year.  I feel added pressure now to get to it, before any of these side effects intensify…….which apparently all have the likelihood of  culumitive annoyance…..the longer on chemo, the worse the side effects get.

But, at this point in time, these are only my “worries” not my realities.  I will follow the directions of the nurses, number one of which is a minimum of 15 minutes of exercise a day.  (Cool-Paula, are you listening?  That means a walk tomorrow morning!)

BTW, my hand where the IV went in, is still beautiful.  Dr. Schott, you were right, your nurses (in this case, Nurse Nancy) are very very good!

Funny thing that happened yesterday at the Cancer Center.  Suddenly I felt kind of luckey….a lot of people who appeared to be younger than me, looked to be a whole lot worse.  And then there were the children with pretty little bald heads.  Then you know getting cancer is just something that happens.  It is my job to get over it, and work to help educate others and support those who support us.

Not so fast, “bucko”

May 30, 2009

So, remember my last post how I had so easily come to a decision about the chemo plan?   Well, I have changed my mind a bunch of times since then.  Since I found out my cancer surgeon will not put a “port” in my upper arm, I have decided to pursue another option to see if  I can get this procedure at U of M (where my onco-man suggested it is currently being done.)  I have spent hours on the web and on U of M sites in the last day, and I think I am ready to cancel the pre-op appointment coming up this Thursday at St. Anne’s (in Toledo).  

Now, I just have to be sure Medical Mutual will allow me to travel for this procedure……and since I am doing that, I think I want a second opinion on the chemo plan too.  I can hardly believe I am saying that. I’m worried that I am making a big decision too quickly.  I’d do more comparison shopping for a pair of shoes than I have for chemotherapy.  That’s a sobering thought.

I’m worried about the insurance, worried about the “port”, worried about the “plan”, and worried about my kids.  All the while, I keep thinking I should really try to have a good time now, before “chemo” starts and the likely nasty side effects decide to cozy up inside my little ol’ body.

Oncologist to Oprah

May 26, 2009


Well, we finally got to meet the oncologist, Dr. M., and I’ll say this much, I think he is smart.  BUT-that doesn’t help me make a decision.

So far, this has been exceedingly difficult to even think about, much less write about, and I can’t exactly figure out why.  Maybe it is because I feel so clueless and immobilized by…..what?  fear? the fact that I really didn’t understand hardly anything he said?  And what he said, well, just had to do with my “odds of surviving” this stinking disease.


so at 3:00 am tuesday morning, I am still wondering how do you choose which type of treatment to do after breast cancer surgery?  We even taped the appointment so I could listen to it again (and again and again) but that hasn’t helped much

I think my choices are a clinical trial, or a more conservative chemo plan AND tamoxifan or a hormone blocking clinical trial.

Dr. M favors the clinical trials, but said if it were him, he would do the conservative chemo treatment. I think that is his way of being diplomatic about it all. We see him again on Thursday, I’m supposed to at least have an idea by then what I want to do.

I do think he is a smart, thinking doctor, but it would be nice to have somebody else decide for me.


Taped the Memorial Day Oprah show with Christina Applegate on Breast Cancer, hoping for some pearls of wisdom.  It was a nice show, but for me in the “thick of it” right now, it provided no answers.  Shoot.  Actually, it was something said on that show that woke me up this morning.  A BC survivor made a comment which really bothered me, something about how great God was for giving her a second opportunity at life. Of course, the crowd applauded and cooed approvingly.  I so much can not relate to that kind of belief.

The thought that pulled me out of my now-normal uncomfortable sleep was, the universe is just “what it is” and it is what you choose to do with it that makes it turn beautifully for you, or makes life pass by achingly slow.  Good Lord, I have got to  get back to hanging out with the Unitarians again.