Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Two Months Out

Here was my last rolling session before my mastectomy, which was exactly two months ago today. This was on September 26th; my surgery was on October 8th, so I did have one more weekend to play with, but looking back to my October posts, I see that the forecast had been blustery on the following weekend and I decided to focus on shutting down the garden and doing the attendant freezing and pesto making. Funny thing is it's been so warm that the chard roots that I didn't bother pulling out have grown another helping of leaves, plus a few of the beets came along, so I do have at least one more picking!

Anyways, I never got around to posting about the 26th but it was a fun day on Jamaica Bay and I actually had 3 separate things to pick from - there was dinghy racing, a kayak paddle, and a family fun seining trip with the canoe committee. I decided to go with the canoes in my kayak partly because I thought seining sounded like fun (and it was!) but also partly because I actually thought this was going to be my last paddle for a rather long time, and I wanted to get in some good playing, which I would be able to do better with the slower-moving canoes.

On October 10th, I did what has actually been my only post about my health issues so far. The lack of subsequent updates was partly because I got veryveryvery busy with work after I finished my 3 weeks of medical leave, but also partly because (and this is going to sound weird but it's actually fantastic) this somehow didn't end up feeling like that big a deal! Some people have cancer ordeals. I'd rate what I've been through so far as more of a cancer hassle. I was fortunate in a number of ways - my ob-gyn steered me to an excellent pair of surgeons; the cancer hadn't spread beyond the original tumor (ended up being stage 2A); I did get to keep most of my lymph nodes (they used to just take 'em as a matter of course but they now actually test 'em while you're on the table, and although it did turn out that they took 7, not just the one closest to the tumor as I'd originally thought was the case immediately after surgery, the average person has 20 to 30 in each armpit, so I've got a good batch of those left, and I think that helps the healing); and then the things I can take personal credit for are being in good condition when I went in, and then getting up and about again as quickly as I could while following directions. I also had a few friends (hope they see this!) who have been through cancer themselves and told me their own recovery stories, which I think really helped to put me in the right frame of mind - plus a couple of people who I've known who didn't recover (my awesome clubmate Joe Glickman and my wonderful Aunt Char, I miss them both) but stayed so strong and positive that I couldn't help but be inspired by their examples - they faced their much worse outlooks and treatments with such strength, worthy of emulation.

Can't resist putting in a little moral here - women over 40, do get your mammograms but also keep up with your self-exams, and pay attention to how you look - a mammogram I had in the spring missed this when it maybe should have caught it, but I found it in time through a self-exam that I did because I had seen a weird asymmetry develop during the summer. If I'd been regular about those self-exam I would almost certainly have caught it even sooner. I didn't end up paying for that delay, but that was sheer luck.

With all that going for me, recovery went much faster than I ever dreamed it would, and one month almost to the day (November 7th), TQ and our friend Frank took me out for my first post-surgical paddle. We kept it short and gentle, only going to the "Jeep Marsh" (a typical destination for one of Sebago's open paddles, just a couple of miles), just squeezing in there as the tide was rising and then hanging out chatting and watching brants fly by and the marsh fill up, but boy, it was wonderful being back out there so quickly. 

I've only gotten in one paddle since then, but there's also been hiking and carolling and visits to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a friend of mine is doing the NYC ID thing where you get free access to a bunch of cultural institutions, but only if you appear in person at each institution and register, so I joined her on a couple of those) and Irish music and stuff - so here at 2 months out I'd say I'm pretty much back to my normal life. YOWZA.

It's not OVER, but really, so far so good. Hopefully the cancer is OVER (fingers crossed, knocking wood, all that good stuff), but there are still some medical stuffs to do that will last for a few more months. There's some ongoing reconstruction stuff done during weekly visit that's a little tedious and uncomfortable but not too bad. The test results were pretty close to the point where an oncologist might say a person didn't need chemo, but in my case there were a couple of mitigating factors that made my oncologist recommend it - however, since it was kind of a precautionary measure, she did present me with 2 choices of regimen - an old-school one that is a hair more effective and takes half as long, but is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel like you got hit by a truck (to use Nurse Thelma, my oncologist's nurse's, exact words) and make your hair fall out - sort of the classic picture you get when you think of chemo, right? - or a newer version that takes twice as long, but that leaves most people able to carry on a normal life. I've been to 2 of my 8 infusions and so far it hasn't really knocked me off my stride too badly, just a little bit of an upset stomach, and I'm hoping it stays that way - I just couldn't imagine choosing the harsher version, Thelma said people mostly pick that just to get it over with faster but I've been amazed at how normal my life has been through all of this once I got past the initial recuperation phase (I was runnin' 'round with Flat Stanley by the middle of week 3), and I'm absolutely delighted that that's been possible.

Last photo - I took this reprise of the "It's blowin' a gale in Midwood" shot I've done twice before shortly before the chemo cut - "chemo lite" doesn't make your hair fall out like "chemo classic" but it can cause shedding. Nurse Thelma's recommendation was to go much shorter so that the hair is lighter and doesn't need to be yanked back in a ponytail. Fortunately I'd grown just enough hair since my last donation that going to a just-below-the-chin bob resulted in a ponytail long enough to donate! And so far no noticeable thinning, so once again - so far so good! 


Painless Mama said...

Dude, you just totally turned my crap morning around. Glad you're doing so well with all of this. (Dave's mom had a similar case a while back. No mastectomy, just a lumpectomy and a few months of radiation.)

Still making you a hat, tho'. ;-)

bonnie said...

Thanks so much, K-Girl! You just made my morning with this comment, too!

I'm absolutely delighted at how well it's gone so far - I've been keeping so busy it was sort of a shock to realize that yesterday was the 2 month mark.

I shall wear your hat with pride! Hand-knit gifts are such an honor.

Keep Reaching said...

I had no idea you went through all this - so glad to hear things are OK and you have been back on the water - that must have been a big and really gratifying step. Hooray for you !! Keep us posted on the progress.

bonnie said...
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bonnie said...

Thanks! Yeah, I did one big post on it and then I got distracted by all the more fun stuffs there are in the world. I like that I was able to do that but anybody who read that October 10th post was kind of left hanging, I felt like at 2 months it was high time for an update!

jkmccoy said...

I'm very happy to hear all this as well. What a scare - and a trial. I'm glad things have gone as well as they have. I'm a fan !

Unknown said...

Wow what a scare. So glad you found it yourself! I'm very happy to hear you're doing well. Your positive attitude goes a long way with your health!!

bonnie said...

Thanks both of you! I think the scariest time was actually between the finding of the lump and the diagnosis, when I knew I had a problem but had no idea how bad it was - but at that point I was consciously trying NOT to be too freaked out 'cause freaking out wasn't actually going to make one bit of difference, except to distract me from doing the stuff that needed to be done to take care of it and keeping up with work while dealing with that. Once Dr. Axelrod (the main surgeon for my mastectomy) and Dr. Meyers (my oncologist) had the test results, they immediately put my mind much more at ease about my prognosis.