Archive for the 'weight loss' Category

21
Jun
08

June 20, 2008

Big news today is that I’m down 2.4 pounds since Monday the 9th – total down now is 24.6. I haven’t been this light since I was at PSU 4 years ago. It feels really good!

I decided that one possible cause of the fatigue was due to a change in my medications. The insurance company recently switched me over to the generic version of Zyrtec for my allergies when Zyrtec went over the counter – I thought maybe part of the problem was my allergies breaking through because the generic wasn’t working as well. I bought some Zyrtec the other day, and have been taking it instead of the generic, and so far, it doesn’t seem to have helped with the tiredness.

When I saw the oncologist for my quarterly check-up, he told me to check back in a week if I was still experiencing excessive fatigue. So I called him, and he decided I need to have another CT scan to check for pulmonary emboli, and then he added on a brain MRI.

So every time I’m sick, I have to worry that I’ve got cancer or another PE? That really annoys me! Of course, it annoys me more that my solution (changing my allergy meds) didn’t work – why couldn’t it be that simple? I asked him why I couldn’t just go to my primary care, and have her check me out for something fairly simple – but he feels that he needs to rule out “the big stuff” before I go that route.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I mean, usually when you start ruling out things, you check the easy stuff first – no, it’s not bronchitis; no, you just need new glasses; no, your ears are ringing because you were at a rock concert.

Until I got breast cancer, my doctors always assumed I had “small” stuff – if I had pain in my chest, it was due to overtaxed muscles; if I was coughing, it was a cold; if I had headaches, it was sinus problems or stress.

Now I don’t need to be a hypochondriac – my doctors are doing it for me.

Brian says, “Great, you’re outsourcing!”

13
Jun
08

June 13, 2008

Can you say “hypovitaminosis”? I knew that you could!

The test results from my first quarterly check-up with my oncologist are back – no thyroid problems, no organ function problems, but I am Vitamin D deficient. Not radically so, the number is just on the very low end of the normal range. The doctor wanted me to take another 200 I.U., and while I was on the phone with the nurse, I told her that I am already taking 2000 I.U. daily in a Vitamin D supplement, plus I think there’s some in my Calcium supplement (I’ve been on this dose for a couple months). She checked with the doctor, who said that I should maintain this dosage for three months and we’ll do a re-check at the next quarterly appointment.

I asked if D hypovitaminosis (isn’t that a fabulous word?!?) could be the cause of my general fatigue, but she didn’t think so, and based on a quick google of the disease, it’s not a typical symptom. On the other hand, it is possible that I have had a deficiency of Vitamin D all my life, since my knees are valgus ($20 word for knock-kneed) – this is one way in which rickets presents in children.

Recently, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a predisposition for some cancers, including breast cancer; it also is listed as a predisposing condition for IBD, MS, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and others. I so do not need any of these!

For now I’ll operate under the presumption that my fatigue is related to recovery from surgery, even though it is more than 3 months since the last one. If it continues, I’ll pester the doctor again prior to my quarterly exam.

In other news, since I’m not downtown today (taking the day off), I’ll weigh in on Monday, then try to get back onto my normal Friday weigh-in meeting schedule. According to my home scale, my weight is stable since the last weigh-in on Monday. So last night I stopped at the store and bought some rabbit food, because I haven’t been eating enough fruits and vegetables the last couple weeks. It may be too little, too late; but then again, better late than never.

09
Jun
08

June 9, 2008

Considering what a bad girl I was last week, it hardly seems fair that my weight went down. Only 0.6 pounds, but hey, down is down. I suspect that the long working hours, the short sleep, and the hauling of boxes, walking from event to event, and general busyness counterbalanced the fried foods; the cheeses and sauces; the pasta, breads, pastries, baked goods, and desserts; and the 1/2 Lemon Drop and one Hefeweizen. I also tried to eat small portions, so even though I had a lot of unhealthy things, I didn’t eat much of any one thing. At one meal, there were no vegetables other than artichoke poppers, spanikopita, and caesar salad drenched in dressing – so I grabbed some tomato wedges that were garnishing the salmon platter. So far, I don’t seem to be having any symptoms of salmonella.

The symposium went extremely well, and with only a couple hitches that were fairly easy to rectify. The early mornings were hard, but plenty of coffee got me through the day. By the end of the 3rd day, my feet were killing me, and wearing heels messed up my back a little bit, although it does seem to be recovering fairly quickly. Interestingly, I can’t remember having a single hot flash during the symposium – however, I was having them the night before, and I have had a couple since. Go figure.

I had my first quarterly exam with the oncologist today, and he seems pleased with how I’m doing. When I complained about being tired (after I’d already told him about the nasty cold and the very long hours), he responded (in a manner that bordered on snarkasm) that who wouldn’t be, after all that? However, he did check my blood oxygen level to confirm that I don’t have another pulmonary embolism (my cold symptoms were similar enough to PE symptoms that he just wanted to make sure); and I’d already had a thyroid blood test scheduled because I’d been complaining about being tired prior to the cold. My blood counts (both red and white) are normal, so I’m not anemic, and hopefully I should have the results back on the thyroid test in a couple days. Since I’m losing weight, I suspect that I’m not hypothyroid – my skin is definitely not dry, either, which seems contraindicative. Apparently a lot of people have few or no symptoms of hypothyroidism – and my older brother is hypothyroid, so it’s possible it runs in the family. Guess I’ll find out. . .

03
Jun
08

June 2, 2008

Woo-hoo! I weighed in today – the first time since May 16 (nearly 2-1/2 weeks ago), and I’m down 2.8 pounds! I’ve reached 20 pounds down, plus some – and last week was a *bad*, *bad* week in terms of what I ate.

This week is starting out OK, but will be challenging on Weds thru Friday, because I’ll be working our user symposium, which means that I’m not going to have a lot of healthy food choices. I’ll just have to be vigilant and very focused on avoiding the really bad (i.e., good) stuff. I won’t be able to get back to my regular Friday weigh-in this week, due to the symposium, so I’ll weigh in again next Monday.

I’ve also been fighting a cold the last two weeks, and am finally getting over it – not completely, but nearly there. It hit me really hard – I have pooh-poohed everyone who has been telling me that I shouldn’t overdo it, because I’m still recovering; but obviously there’s been a lot of denial on my part. Usually, if I do catch whatever is going around, it’s fairly mild – in general, I’m pretty darn healthy. So for something to exhaust me the way this has means that my body is still very depressed (physically, not mentally). I’ve been telling people that I’m no longer immune-compromised because my white blood count is back to normal, but the reality is that the immune system is just that – a system composed of several parts. Apparently other parts of my system are not in as good shape as the white blood cells. This is at least the third time I’ve been sick with something since mid-January (2 weeks after my last chemo), two of which have been since I went back to work at the beginning of April.

In other news, I’m a redhead once again. I decided to dye my hair again, and this time went with a red that matched my chemo wig. The first day or two it looked pretty purple in certain lights, but has settled down to being a lovely auburn. The only problem is, with it being so curly it kind of looks like a ‘fro, or a darker version of a short-haired Bozo wig. But in its natural color, basically salt-and-pepper (heavy on the salt), it was starting to look like the stereotypical little-old-lady perm. It’s going to be interesting getting through the growing-out stage where it’s not heavy enough to hang down at all. I have a vision of it being like an aura surrounding my head, perfectly spherical except where it breaks around my neck and face. That should be an interesting look, especially if I decide I don’t want to keep dying it, and have salt-and-pepper roots with red tips. Shudder!

Frankly, I liked the bald look better than the Dickens urchin look.

11
May
08

May 11, 2008

Yesterday was our big adventure – the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk!

Thank you to everyone who donated – as a team, we raised $1,995, just $5 short of our goal – many people were very generous, and Schrodinger as a company donated not only one quarter of the total amount, but also paid for the team t-shirts.

Special thanks are owed to those who walked – Carolyn; Evelyn and Vada; Jenny and Lawrence, along with the girls, Lily and Addie; Laurie (and Bobbi the Corgi); Leah; Olimpia, Cole, and Daniel; and, of course, Brian (and Robin). We made it the full 4-mile circuit, and saw parts of Portland up close that I hadn’t really noticed before. To those of you who signed up to walk but had conflicts of various kinds (including leaving the country!), I know you were thinking of us as we walked: Heidi, James, Lynnette, Mike, and Shi-Yi; and I know each of you would have been there if you could have.

Particular thanks go to Jenny, whose idea it was to set up the team, who did all the organizing, and who put her feet to the pavement in support.

I don’t know yet how much the overall Walk earned in donations, but we saw many teams, and many survivors participating – if their friends, family, and co-workers were as supportive as mine, then I’m sure that the American Cancer Society met its own goal.

For my part, as well as being grateful to and inspired by my team, I walked for those who have touched my lives who have been hit with breast cancer (and some other cancers, also). I carried a banner with the following names:

In Memory of:
Mom (although she did not die of breast cancer, she showed me how to handle it with strength and humor)
Peter’s mom

In Honor of:
Aunt Pat (x2)
Steph
Teddy
Shirlie
Karen
Monica
Sue
Joyce
Evelyn
Yvonne
Helen
Jolene
Nancy
Kristin
Aunt Julia (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
Cathy (ovarian)
Penny (adrenal)
Jody (glioma)
Elaine (colorectal)

And, of course, for those whom I have never met, yet who have walked, or will walk, the breast cancer journey.

Yesterday after we got home, Robin and I took a long nap, and went to bed early. I had some stiff joints and some soreness, and still do today, but other than being tired, I’m really pleased at how easy it was, and how relatively little the long walk affected me.

I celebrated by having pizza for dinner last night! After adding up all my points from yesterday (and subtracting the 4 points of activity from the walk), I only dipped into my weekly points by 1/2 point – hooray! I’ve had two weigh-ins since the last post – on Friday the 2nd, I was down 0.6 pounds, and on Friday the 9th, I was down 1.4 pounds for a total of 2 pounds in 2 weeks. Sadly, I didn’t quite make my first mini-goal of losing 10% of my weight as I had hoped to by the 9th, but I am now within 0.6 pounds of reaching it (in my last post, I said I had 2.2 pounds to go, but I was mistaken – at that point it was actually 2.6 pounds). So progress is being made, which keeps me motivated to continue the good work. I need to start thinking about what target I will choose for my next mini-goal, once I’ve hit the 10% goal. My girlfriend Laura chose her roommate’s daughter’s weight as her next goal (and already met it – yay Laura!) – I suppose I could go for losing a “Robin” of weight, but since he’s about 5 or 6 pounds overweight himself, that would mean I’d have to lose nearly 30 pounds to reach my next goal. On the other hand, I could choose a “Jasmine”, but since the little poodle barely weighs a couple tenths’ more than 9 pounds, that goal seems too close. Anyway, I guess I’ll keep thinking about a goal that is close enough to keep me motivated, without being so close that I reach it too soon – the weight of either my yarn or fabric stashes are beyond my final goal; since I’m so into books, maybe I should plan on losing the Oxford English Dictionary (in its multi-volume incarnation, not the one-volume version that comes with a magnifying glass).

Today is a “lazy” day – I’m going to try to get Robin out for a walk, assuming the weather cooperates, but other than that, I’m going to do some reading, some beading, and other than that, nothing much else.

Happy Mother’s Day to Charlene, and to Aunt Pat,

Love, Julie

26
Apr
08

April 26, 2008

Not a lot going on the last couple weeks – I was down on the 18th with a headache that was as bad as a migraine, but was different from the way I usually experience migraines. It actually started on the night before, and kept me awake most of the night – I even took some of my left-over pain pills from the surgery, and they didn’t touch it at all. It eventually subsided to a bearable level Friday evening, but lingered through Monday, more like a tension-style headache.

This week, I worked late most nights making up the time I missed on the 18th – I have been extremely tired all week. Once I get home from work, I need to wind down, no matter how tired I am, so even though I was tired enough to want to sleep, I wasn’t sleepy. This meant that I ended up going to bed very late, and not able to sleep in much. So today I am lolling around in my sweats and slippers, reading, writing, beading, maybe napping.

Tomorrow I want to go to the Art & Elegance in Beads show at the Oregon Convention Center – I am particularly interested in finding some focal beads – typically they sit around for a while and tick around in my brain until I come up with a plan to use them – there’s not usually a specific thought process on “What am I going to do with this?”, but I’ll see something in a magazine or online, or even in person at a store, and it will trigger the thought of a particular bead I have, and I begin designing something. Sometimes, though, I just buy some beads that will go with a particular focal bead, and just sort of make something happen with them. Of course, then there are the projects for which I specifically choose a pattern and follow the supply list religiously – usually so I can learn a new technique. I have more projects than I know what to do with.

I also have a sort-of sculptural diorama project I’ve been contemplating, involving some carved animal-shaped stones that came in a surprise package I ordered from Fire Mountain Gems – I’ve gotten some strands of stone-chips to use for the project, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to use as the base of the diorama. My mother-in-law saw a shell-shaped bowl and suggested it (the theme is ocean-related), and it hit me that a plate or platter of some form would be perfect for the base. So now I have to start keeping an eye out for the perfect platter to use – I have to get out more, obviously, because I’m not going to find it just going between home and work ;-}

My weight started back down again – I’ve been really working hard, especially this week, to get back on track. It can be frustrating, when I know I’m following the plan closely, to have little movement, or even to gain a little. But so far I’ve managed not to fall into the trap of giving up when I have a bad weigh-in. My previous weigh-in was two weeks ago, and I went up; I missed the 18th because I was sick (but my weight didn’t seem to have shifted at all, at least according to my scale at home); so this week it was a pleasant surprise to find out I’d gone down 3.4 pounds for two weeks. I got an “Ooo” (an *impressed* “Ooo”) from the group when I mentioned that this had included a meal at The Melting Pot. My total lost so far is 15.4 pounds, and I’m within 2.2 pounds of my first mini-goal of losing 10%. I hope to achieve that in two weeks. This drop also meant that I had to recalculate my daily points – I was just getting used to the relatively new level of 22 points per day, and now I’m down to 20 points per day. That means I have to eat more 0 point snacks (veggies, veggies, veggies!) and really focus on planning my meals so that I don’t get taken by surprise. I could save points by giving up my half-and-half in my coffee, but I’d rather give up so many other things, except maybe chocolate. . .

Another thing I need to work on is increasing my activity. I bought the Weight Watchers pedometer that calculates how many points-worth you walk, and because my job is so sedentary (pretty much sitting in front of the computer, typing all day), I rarely even make it to the level where I start earning one point – how sad is that? I’ve been trying to get out of the office for a walk, at least when the weather is not completely uncooperative. The week before, I was very good about getting out for a walk with Robin after I got home from work, but with the late nights last week, I didn’t get out once. The office building where I work has just added a fitness room, free to the building tenants, that opens up for use on Monday, so I’m going to try to drag myself into work an hour early to see if I can get some workout time in – I am so not a morning person!

The other day, I had the odd experience of being surprised at remembering that I have had cancer. For the first time in a long time, it wasn’t an ever-present background thought, or being kept as a focus of my attention through pain, fatigue, lack of hair, having to take time off for doctor appointments, or being limited in what I can do physically. What a weird feeling – getting back to “normal”.

Julie

14
Apr
08

April 14, 2008

Friday was disappointing because my weight was up – only 0.6 pounds, but still. . .

Friday was great because we had beautiful weather, and I had to leave work early for a doctor appointment, so dang! I had to lower the convertible top. I hate it when that happens ;-}

Saturday was *hot*. I had to put the top down Saturday, too. Plus I went to a trunk show at Beads at Dusti Creek, and found some brilliant bargains, and have all sorts of new beading projects to work on. Dang.

Robin got a couple really good walks this weekend – on Saturday we went with the poodle and her mom to Bethany Lake park, and the only problem there was that it was firmly dusk coming back, so the gnats and mosquitoes were rising. We saw a miniature Australian Shepherd – I’d never heard of them before, and thought she was a puppy, but she was about three years old. Robin was intrigued, but didn’t stray from his poodle-love. On Sunday, we walked through the greenspace park north of our neighborhood (again with the poodle and her mom), and got to practice not freaking out on the busy street when cars come up from behind. We’re getting better about that ;-} Our next-door neighbor Arno, who’s around 5 or so, came over Sunday to ask if Robin could play, so they ran around the front yard, only it was hard to decide which one was chasing the other – I think they both thought they were in the lead.

I also power-washed part of the driveway – it is filthy, and had moss growing on it. It wasn’t too hard on my arms, but I realized too late that I was bending forward just slightly most of the time, and it made my back problems act up. I took an Epsom Salts bath when I came in from the yard, and I’ve been stretching and focusing on my core-strength exercises, trying to get it to clear up – I’ve also used an ice pack periodically. Unfortunately, I can’t take any anti-inflammatories, because of the blood thinner. I’ve got one month to go on that – I will be very happy to be done with the whole blood-clotting thing. But Brian gave me a nice massage last night, and that helped a lot. As long as I remember to get up and walk around periodically during the day at work, it seems to be maintaining, and not getting any worse.

Not much else to update – this was my second weekend after starting back to work, and I was not nearly as exhausted as I was on the first weekend. I still get tired, and my evenings after work consist of dinner and some reading, but I definitely see improvement in my stamina.

Interestingly, I don’t think I had a single hot flash today – either that, or I’m getting so used to them that I don’t notice them – nah, I definitely notice them!

My hair is really getting an attitude – it thinks it needs to be very curly, but it’s so short that it pokes out all over rather than laying flat. I don’t think I could get it to do this if I tried – oh, the wonders of chemotherapy! I see the plastic surgeon on Thursday for my 7-week check-up on the reconstruction. There’s still some swelling, but for the most part, I think he’s going to be ready to release me to doing whatever I feel like with lifting, etc., after one more week.

A reminder – there’s still time to join our walking team for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on May 10. We’d love to have you walk with us – the link takes you to my page where you can either sign up to walk with the team (you don’t have to be a coworker – all friends and family are welcome), donate online, or print out a form to mail a donation in. There have been several extremely generous donations, and in addition to making a donation, my employer, Schrodinger, is buying our team t-shirts for the employees who sign up to walk. I still feel a little overwhelmed by how many people are showing their support by either walking, donating, or both. Thank you all – and know that as well as my gratitude, you have the gratitude of those who benefit from the American Cancer Society’s research, even if they can’t thank you in person.

Julie

06
Apr
08

April 6, 2008

Well, it’s been a busy couple weeks since my last post.

Shortly after I posted on the 21st, I got a call that my little brother was in the hospital. I flew down to see him on Easter (after having a wonderful Easter lunch with Sharon and Gary and their family). Brian couldn’t go due to a major project he’s working on for a client, so he dropped me off at the airport with a stern injunction to NOT PICK UP my own suitcase. When I checked the bag, they weighed it in at 25 pounds – everyone I asked for help was very kind about picking it up for me – I felt guilty about just asking people, because I look very healthy (and of course, I *am* very healthy, with the caveat that overdoing the lifting could make me *unhealthy*), so I felt compelled to explain about having recently had surgery, can’t lift more than 10 pounds, etc. Apparently Brian had called his mother (with whom I was staying, rather than getting a hotel), and told her I wasn’t allowed to lift my bag, so she came out to the rental car when I arrived, and my little 83 year old mother-in-law unloaded my suitcase for me. How’s that for embarrassing?

Tim was discharged from the hospital on  the Monday after Easter, and because he was at a hospital quite a distance from his house, and they are on tight funds, I gave him a ride home. I got to briefly see my nephews and niece – they’re all so big! The oldest son still at home will turn 17 in May, and he was the only one to really recognize me – with so little hair, and since it’s been quite a while since we’ve been to visit, the younger kids had a hard time reconciling this aunt with the one that had longer hair.

I had scheduled my trip to fly home on Wednesday, because I didn’t know when Tim was going to be discharged, so I ended up having a free Tuesday to spend with Brian’s mom. At that time, I was still sleeping in the recliner at home, since my arm range of motion wouldn’t allow me to sleep with my arm in the right position to sleep in the bed – I can’t sleep on my back in bed, only on my sides – so I was sleeping in one of her recliners. We seemed to be on the same sleeping schedule, and stayed up late and slept in late on Tuesday. Then I took her shopping for some craft items she needed (she isn’t driving since her accident in November), and then we met Dani, one of my sister-in-laws on Brian’s side, for lunch. Had dinner with a group of Shirlie’s friends, and then we all played Mexican Train dominoes after.

Wednesday I flew home from Sacramento, and spent the next four days recovering from the trip. As I’ve learned, I can push as hard as I need to, but the payment comes due eventually.

This past Monday, I started back to work. I had to hit the ground running, because we’re just getting into a very busy time. With 800+ e-mails to look through, I spent Monday going through them (fortunately, most of them were either informational or ones that didn’t require action on my part), and got started dealing with the ones that *did* need my attention. The rest of the week, I was focused on getting literature and other items printed and ready to ship to our first big event of the tradeshow season. Friday afternoon I got everything packed (I didn’t pick up any of the boxes, because I’m still on the 10-pound-or-less lifting restriction) and discovered that even without lifting or even pushing the boxes around, just using the tape-gun to seal the packages was hard on me – I didn’t damage anything, but I definitely experienced some pain once I was back at my desk that afternoon.

Brian and I went out to dinner and a show on the 4th to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary (actual anniversary date = 3/29) – McCormick & Schmick’s on 1st Avenue (*wonderful* halibut with pomegranate molasses – mmm), then on to Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo”. Sharon and Gary met us there, and the show was fabulous! Of course, we’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil show that wasn’t.

This weekend I’m totally wiped out – again, I am paying for pushing myself this past week – I had thought I might start back around 3/4-time to work, but discovered that not only did I need to work full-time due to the deadline for this tradeshow, but I also had to work extra hours just to get it done. Frankly, I’m happy to be back to work, and to be able to do my job – and I’d much rather be busy than not. But I can hardly wait until I’ve recouped enough of my normal level of health that I don’t have to spend the weekend just recovering from work. When I was younger, work used to be a way of recovering from the weekend!

After my trip to California, I weighed in on the 28th, and my weight was up 0.6 pounds. It is really hard to eat well when you’re traveling. Mostly due to the fact that you don’t always have the choice of healthy restaurants, or healthy menu items to choose from; and if someone is cooking for you, unless they’re also on-plan, they don’t know how to accommodate on-plan needs. All in all, considering that I’d also had a big Easter meal that week, I was surprised at only being up by 0.6 pounds over the previous week, although I’d hoped to be able to hold steady. This week I weighed in down 1.2 pounds, which brings my total loss so far to 13 pounds. Only 5 more pounds to go to meet my first mini-goal!

I’m in the market for another fan – the one I have been using has now broken in two places (I play with it too much when I’m not actually using it). Where does one buy these things? I have no idea – probably not in the clothes department, but maybe in the toy department? Or maybe I have to go to some place like Cost Plus (what are they called now, World Market?) or Pier 1. The hot flashes are bearable, although I would say they’re getting a little more intense than they used to be. I can usually feel them coming on, with a feeling that my face is flushing, and if I take my hat off (assuming I have one on), that is often enough to fend one off. If one is coming on when my head is bare, fanning myself seems to shorten the duration. I definitely think caffeine is one of my triggers, but there are just some things that one can’t give up and still be able to function.

There are a couple people I want to share news about – one of my friends from support group, Penny, just had surgery on the 31st, and is in the hospital recovering.  The surgery was a long one, but the doctors believe they got everything they were in after, and even took less than they thought they might have to.  Love and healing thoughts to Penny!

My physical therapist had a surprise double-bypass surgery a couple weeks ago – he is young and healthy, and had no idea he had trouble brewing in his arteries.  He is recovering well, and says that he can’t even lift as much as I can – when they crack your sternum and ribs, the weight limit is 5 pounds.  So, Tony, keep on healing, and maybe by the time we’re both released to normal activity, I’ll be able to outlift you for a week or so!

I had a bone density scan last week, of which I am awaiting the results – before the scan the technician asked what my height was, and I told her 5’3″.  She then measured me, and I came out as 5’2″.  I looked at my driver’s license after the scan, and it definitely says 5’3″.  Of course, that was from back in 1988, but I would be surprised if I really did lose 1″ of height.  As I recall, I was actually about 5′ 2-1/2″, but that it got rounded up.  Still, that would mean that I’ve lost 1/2″ of height sometime in the last . . . 20 years . . . well, when you put it like that, I guess maybe I can believe that.  I don’t know how often they’ll do a scan to compare to this base-line – the Femara has the possibility of causing bone density loss, but then, so does menopause in general.  Exercise helps, so I’m trying to get serious about a daily routine.

With my hair growing in, and only taking a daily hormone pill for the next five years, and being back to work on a full-time basis, I’m starting to feel as if life is finally getting back to normal.  Once I’m off the blood thinner, I will be as free of the medical establishment as possible as regular quarterly visits to the oncologist allows.

Whoo-hoo!

21
Mar
08

March 21, 2008

Had my second follow-up with the plastic surgeon yesterday – after talking to him about my concerns regarding the right breast, we’ve agreed to wait five months before making any decisions about whether there is a need to try any corrective measures to even it up and potentially reposition it.  I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear him say that in spite of my dislike of the positioning, he considers it to be a job well done, and that there isn’t really a lot that *can* be done to change it.

Part of the problem is that there’s still plenty of swelling in the tissues (on both sides, but particularly on the right), and that because I’m right-handed, there’s additional fluid accumulation on the right side, which appears to all be accumulating under my arm.  Also, another part of the problem is that I have fat tissue under the arm – he showed me how to feel where the edge of the implant is, and sure enough, it is much farther to the left than I would have guessed.  As well, the flatness is being caused by the tightness of the overlying muscle – it has loosened up on both sides, but less so on the right side.

Thus we wait until the swelling and fluid accumulation have dissipated, and allow the muscles more time to relax and adapt to their new state.  The five months is to allow complete healing before we proceed with creating nipples (typically thigh tissue, I think); at that time, if I’m still unsatisfied, we can look at trying some liposuction of the fat tissue.  He doesn’t feel that there is anything he can to with the muscle – one’s muscles have a built-in tightness that can be affected by exercising and stretching, but surgically there’s really nothing to be done to make it looser – it could only be drawn tighter, which obviously would not be something I want done.  I haven’t decided yet if I want to have nipples made – that would be a purely cosmetic thing, for me and Brian to decide if it is worth the trouble.  At this point, I’m tending against it, but we’ll see.  I’m still considering whether a nice dragon tattoo might not be more appealing. . .

I drove for the first time yesterday, and last night started having some sharp, tingly pains in my right breast.  Even though I have been released to drive and start extending my range of motion, shifting is a little more than I really should be doing yet.  Unfortunately, I have to drive myself to another appointment this afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes.  It may be that short trips will build up the range of motion, or may make the pain worse – just typing here is starting to bring on a little sharp jab now and then.  I’m on light duty for the next 5 weeks – not allowed to lift anything more than 10 lbs, no pushing or pulling heavy doors or grocery carts, no reaching and lifting of anything more than very light stuff.  At 2 months, I can do anything I want, but in the meantime, I’m only allowed to do weight-bearing exercises that involve my legs and abdomen.  Once I return to work on the 31st, I will have to be careful to stick to the restrictions – hopefully by then driving won’t be causing any difficulties, or I’ll have to figure out how to get downtown without driving (from my house, taking all public transit means a 1-1/2 to 2 hour commute, each way).

The new medication, Femara, doesn’t seem to be causing any increase in my menopausal symptoms – I have started having some pain in my left knee, and a little bit in my right hip, but I wouldn’t expect it to happen that quickly – it started on Monday, after only my second dose.  So I suspect that the knee pain is a recurrence of an occasional problem I’ve had prior to this, and am attributing the hip pain to not getting enough exercise.

Last week my weight was down – this week, based on my home scale, I’m expecting that it will hold steady, or perhaps go down a little bit.  I’ve been sticking to plan, but haven’t done as good a job as usual at getting the right balance of foods in.

Have a happy Easter!

15
Mar
08

March 15, 2008

Saw the ovary surgeon yesterday, and she says everything looks good, and I can start getting the scars wet now – there’s still quite a bit of crust on them, mostly held in place by the surgical glue they use to hold the outside of the scar together, and although it might bleed a little bit as it comes off, it’s now fair game. I have to be sure to watch how much bleeding they do, though, since I’m still on the blood thinner. She also says that I can start some very light exercises that use my abdominal muscles, but very few repeats to start with, and work my way up very slowly, stopping if there is any pain. The bruising and damage to the tissues tends to be exacerbated by the blood thinner, so it will take me longer to heal than it otherwise might have. I still have external bruises from the blood thinner injections that I was getting before the surgery, and it’s been around three weeks for those, with at least another week to go before they’re gone – she indicated that the internal “damage” from the operation will take at least as long to heal.

My digestion finally seems to be nearly back to normal – still a couple blips here and there, but for the most part, I seem to have gotten past the surgery/drug-induced difficulties. I haven’t had to take any pain pills for the last couple days – I do still get isolated pains, and when I swallowed some juice wrong, had a coughing spell that was very uncomfortable during, but the pain faded pretty quickly after.

I see the plastic surgeon again later next week, but I confirmed yesterday that I can now get the scars wet – I can’t shower on the front side, because the water drumming against the tissue can cause swelling, but I can let the water run over my shoulders from behind. I can also start doing a little bit more with my arms (not too much, because swelling is definitely a concern; plus still no pushing, pulling, lifting anything over 10 lbs, or too much repetitive motion), and they even said I can drive if I feel comfortable, even though I have a manual transmission. More than anything, I suspect that what will drive my driving is how tired I get. Brian drove my to my support group meeting on Thursday morning – I hadn’t been for a couple months because it interferes with work hours, so I hadn’t seen anyone there for a while. After the meeting, we had a little lunch at the hospital cafeteria, and my friend Sue drove me home, with a short stop at the grocery store to pick up some half-and-half. After she dropped me at home, I basically just collapsed in my chair and after watching an episode of Stargate SG1, slept for two-and-a-half hours. And Friday, I rode downtown with Brian because I wanted to go to my Weight Watchers meeting – hadn’t weighed in for the previous 2 weeks, and I didn’t want to miss another one. However, Brian had an early meeting to go to, so I ended up waiting in the Borders bookstore cafe for a couple hours (bought some books and had some tea, so I was mostly sitting down the whole time). From there I walked over to Pioneer Place and the meeting (down 5.8 lbs for 3 weeks – whoo-hoo!), and then met Brian back at the car. Then we drove to the follow-up appointment, and it was while I was sitting in the warm, not-so-comfy exam room that I realized how tired I was – from walking a total of about 2-1/2 or 3 blocks and otherwise mostly sitting down all morning. When we got home, I slept for three hours, even with Robin going nuts when Brian came back from a client site, and the phone and doorbell ringing. So I still don’t have a lot of energy to spare, and the doctor said no matter how healthy you look on the outside, it just takes a certain amount of time for the body to recuperate. Another two weeks should have me ready to start back at work at the very least half-time, probably more – she said it would be a mistake to push too hard and have a set-back.

At any rate, I’m taking it very easy – watching a movie or two, some Stargate episodes, lots of reading and napping. Poor Robin is happy to have me at home, but disappointed that it involves so much sitting around. He thinks I should be able to chase him around the back yard, or at least play rope with him. Augie the Dorkie and his mom came for a visit on Tuesday, and the two boys entertained themselves while Cathy and I visited. I still can’t knit or bead or anything, but hopefully soon.

Oh yeah – the ovary surgeon said that it would only be about 24 hours after the surgery until the estrogen built up in my body dissipated, so that I would start experiencing whatever symptoms of menopause I’m going to have very quickly (i.e., as of now, I’m probably at the worst it’s going to get). Basically, I do have my hot ‘flashes’, and sometimes more of them than other times – I haven’t yet had a chance to identify triggers – but they’ve been very controllable by removing my hat or scarf, and at night pushing back the covers if necessary. I also dug up a little hand fan, which helps when I’m in a situation where I can’t remove any more clothing. Definitely layering is in my future ;-} She thinks I might experience a little bit more once I start taking the aromatase inhibitor (Sunday). Hopefully it won’t be too bad.

Even after sleeping in this morning, I think I’m ready for a nap. Cheers!

Julie

08
Mar
08

March 8, 2008

Ouch.

Do you know what happens when you are startled, say, when someone sneaks up behind you and touches you, or when you’re playing a computer role-playing game, and the bad guy jumps out in front of you unexpectedly?

You jump.

But do you know the specifics? Your pelvic floor tightens and jerks upward, your abdominal muscles tighten and pull inwards, and not only that, but quite probably, if you’re sitting down, you involuntarily push yourself upwards in a flight response, however aborted.

Ouch.

I had thought that, in spite of the ongoing pain as the usual bowel function has been restoring itself, I was starting to really improve, and that the abused muscles and tissues were starting to reach normal levels of usage without too much pain.

What the above reaction showed me is that in fact, I’m still babying my body, and with very good reason. I started paying attention, and I noticed that I still move very slowly, and initially I walk hunched over my abdomen slightly and straighten up only after several steps. I’m still resting against the backs of chairs when I sit down, although normally, I typically sit forward. Trying to stay upright on the exam table requires a lot more effort from one’s abdominal muscles that I realized. Bending over, I’m using lots of support from my arms, which is OK as long as I don’t push down, or put a lot of weight on the arms (or move them very far in any direction). When you just have laparoscopic surgery, you depend on your arm and chest muscles to compensate for not being able to use your abdominals. When you have breast surgery, you depend on your abdominal muscles to compensate for not being able to use your arms or your chest muscles. When you’ve had both. . .

So no scary movies for me for another week at least.

Weight-wise, I’ve actually dropped four pounds in two weeks, mostly because I haven’t been eating a lot. I’m generally back to normal foods, but my appetite is feeling pretty reduced.

We met with the plastic surgeon on Thursday – he’s pleased with the general results, although I think he agrees that the right side is currently not looking the way *I* want it to look (it may look fine to him, as far as being a surgeon goes, but aesthetically, I’m not happy because it still bulges too much to the side and is still fairly flat on top). Of course, there’s swelling, and so it’s hard to tell what it’s going to look like in the long run – before I freak out and start demanding that it be put “right”, I’m going to control myself and wait to see what it looks like once it is declared healed. The left side looks pretty good – still bulges a little to the side, but it’s more rounded and evenly proportioned. I have to do nothing with my arms for another week, and have another appointment in two weeks.

My ovary surgeon is in Maui for ten days (I hadn’t realized that I’d forced her to do a major operation the day before she was leaving for vacation, but it explains the hesitation her scheduler had about the 29th, and also why in the face of the hesitation she didn’t suggest moving to the next week). I’ve had some difficulty getting the pain medication and the stool softener dosages correlated properly – Brian and I call it the Porridge Paradigm, and decided that the point is searching for the Goldilocks Effect. You know the story – this porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold, this porridge is just right; this bed is too hard, this bed is too soft, this bed is just right – substitute stool for bed, and you’ve got the point. However, I’ve managed to reduce the pain pills to roughly 1/4 – 1/3 the maximum dosage I was taking (although I bumped that up briefly after the little “dungeon exploring accident”). My follow-up with her is in a week.

I also met with the oncologist for the first time since my last chemo in December. Now that I’m post-menopausal, he wants me to start my aromatase inhibitor, and we’ve settled on the particular one (Letrozole, brand name: Femara – don’t you love these drug brand names? This ones sounds so feminine yet mature. . .). He gave me a month’s sample to get me started. I’m planning on starting it on the 16th (he doesn’t know that – I decided that after I’d gotten home from a long tiring afternoon). But I don’t think my body is quite ready for a major influence change this close to having had surgery – I’m going to give it another week to heal, and to shake out the new status of being a (mostly) estrogen-free state (not quite like Jefferson Free State, but we no longer owe those annoying hormonal taxes). I haven’t had a lot of reaction yet to the lack of estrogen – as I mentioned in my previous post, I had started sleeping warm again, and that is continuing; however, I am starting to have hot spells during the day (they don’t really “flash” – that makes it sound as if you are just all of a sudden sweating and way too hot – mine creep up on me, and if I ignore them they will kind of “flash”, but if I take care of it as I feel it coming on, by removing my hat or scarf, it’s usually just fine). I asked the oncologist how quickly one should expect the estrogen to be gone after surgically removing the main source, thus triggering official menopause, and he admitted that he doesn’t know. I’ve tried to find it on the ‘net, and haven’t found anything that really specifies that particular information. Should I be searching for “estrogen half-life” or something? I guess if I don’t know what my base level of estrogen was to begin with, knowing the half-life wouldn’t really be any help.

So that’s how it’s going for now – mostly not too bad as long as nothing sneaks up on me.

04
Mar
08

March 4, 2007

Hi y’all –

Thank you, everyone, for the cards, calls, flowers, and visits! I am doing pretty well, for the most part. I had a lot of pain on Saturday while I was still at the hospital, but Sunday and Monday I had cut way down on the pain pills because I wasn’t having a lot of problems.

Sunday evening the waited-for event, some indication that my bowels were coming back online, made itself known, and I celebrated by reducing the pain pills even further. It all started to seem pretty normal, but then Monday evening, I hit a snag. Rather than constipation relieved by the stool softeners, I started having diarrhea, which I suspected was being exacerbated by the stool softeners because I’d reduced the amount of oxycodone, but not the colace. Suddenly, there wasn’t as much need to soften things, but it was still working on it. I also developed a mild fever of 100.4 degrees, which is verboten after surgery. Since it was midnight by the time I took my temperature, I didn’t call the doctor, and planned to call them this morning at 8:00, after having taken my temperature again so I could give them an accurate update. I also bumped the oxycodone dose back up, both because I was starting to feel a lot more pain, but also because I thought it had acetaminophen in it to help control the fever. Apparently I was wrong about that, but it certainly helped with the pain.

By this morning, my temp was back down to normal (which for me is typically right around 98 degrees).  The surgeon’s advice nurse said to call if my temp went back up, but otherwise I could just take some immodium for the diarrhea.

So far I haven’t had any indications that I’ve entered menopause, and have even been chilled, rather than too warm. Finally, last night while I was snatching cat-naps between cramps, I started sleeping hot again for the first time since my surgery (something I’ve done for many, many years). I had to strip the blankets off, take off my hat, remove my sweater, and pull my neck scarf off – all items I’d been too cold to go without since I got home from the hospital. Even though I started out by putting everything back on, I just kept having to remove it all again, so I ended up wrapping the scarf around my shoulders and pulling up one blanket.

I haven’t been focusing on eating all my points for Weight Watchers, mostly because it has been a bit of a struggle to eat much of anything.  I do get hungry, but it doesn’t take much to satisfy the hunger, and so I haven’t been worried that I’m overeating.  I probably am undereating, which is just as bad, but I had planned on taking one to two weeks break, and am hoping that at the least I will maintain my previous weight loss, and if I’m lucky lose some more, rather than putting on anything.  As of this morning, I’m at about the same weight I was at my last official weigh in.

The laparoscopic scars are small, and although I’m sure there are stitches inside, the outside was only sealed with glue.  As I’ve had to clean spots to give myself my Lovanox injections, I clean off the iodine – there are gleaming white patches amidst the jaundice-yellow overall tone of my skin currently.  I haven’t seen the scars for the reconstruction yet – my first post-surgery follow-up appointment is Thursday, and I can’t change the dressing or shower until then.  Fortunately my hair is so short that I don’t have to worry about trying to keep it clean – also, I still haven’t gone back to my excessively oily skin and hair that I had prior to chemo.  I’m hoping that part is a permanent change.

I’m about due for my next dose of pain pills, and am going to have a mug of boullion then lay down again.  I haven’t had a lot of focus so far, yet it’s so much better than the previous surgery – I can read, and although I don’t read much at a time, I *remember* what I’ve read so I can be right back into it when I pick up the book again.

Poor Robin is resigned to my being boring again – he follows me everywhere (I am still getting up and pacing around the house periodically), and collapses at the foot of my chair if I don’t get the foot elevated right away.  Sigh.

Julie

25
Feb
08

February 25, 2008

The countdown begins . . .

We met with both surgeons last Thursday – everything is set to go for this coming Friday. I have a pre-admissions appointment Tuesday morning, where they take a broad medical history, make sure any medications I need are arranged for, and do any necessary blood tests.

First, my chemo port will be removed. While the surgeon who did my mastectomy does that, the plastic surgeon will work on my left breast. He expects to finish both sides in roughly an hour – the incision is made over the existing mastectomy scars, and a slit is made in the muscle that overlays the tissue expanders. The permanent implants are inserted, drains are inserted, and everything is closed up.

The ovarian removal will be done laparoscopically, using a Da Vinci robot. I went to their web site, and you can even view video of surgery being performed. Frankly, it’s a lot less messy inside than one would expect. It’s sort of like doing surgery with a Wii.

I have to be on a clear liquid diet on Thursday, only broth, clear juices, water, jello. Any other ideas of clear liquids that anyone can suggest are welcome (I’ve already considered the intoxicants – probably a gin and tonic would be fine, but it would require quite a few of them to stop me from being hungry).

Our neighbors are going to dogsit Robin on Friday – so while I’m under the knife, he’ll be romping around with Jasmine. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Last Friday, I started noticing that I seem to be having temperature-control problems, more than just the usual throwing-off-the-blankets-at-night kind (although those are still extant). Rather than hot flashes, I’m having hot sustaineds. I especially get very hot if I’m wearing a hat or scarf, and as of today, I’ve had to spend most of my time bare-headed, because every time I got cool enough to put my hat back on, it would take very little time for me to reach “boiling” point. This is all well and good during the winter (I didn’t need to buy that down coat after all!), but it’s going to be expensive during the summer, having to run the air conditioning constantly at 50 degrees ;-}

Anyway, not really much else to tell – Brian will post after surgery to update how I’m doing. I will be in the hospital for at least one night, maybe two. It’ll really depend on how they feel I’m doing clot-wise (or, of course, if there are any complications).

A very big thank-you to Schrodinger (my employer) for making an extremely generous donation to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event – and to everyone else who has made donations so far or joined the team to walk. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the caring and support that everyone has shown me personally, and I greatly appreciate the willingness to support the cause, also.

Julie

17
Feb
08

February 17, 2008

Not much to talk about this week.  I spent two days at home with a bad cold – BC (before cold), I kept saying that I was recovering fine, no problems other than a little fatigue, but basically, I was over the chemo and the surgery.  I now believe what everyone has been saying – that you don’t recover from chemo that quickly.  There’s no way this was such a bad cold, but it hit me hard.  On the other hand, even though I’m still congested and coughing, I don’t feel as wiped out today as I did last week.

I didn’t get weighed in Friday due to being sick; but my home scale was at least 2 pounds down from where it had been the previous Friday, so I’m sure I’ve made some progress.

Other than that, we meet with both surgeons on Thursday, and we’ll finalize the details of what and how – my biggest decision (now that I’ve agreed to do the ovary removal surgery) is whether I’m going to have silicon or saline implants.

Captain Peachfuzz signing off!

10
Feb
08

February 10, 2008

Just call me Captain Peachfuzz . . .

Biggest news first: I have hair! As of 5-weeks-post-chemo, I couldn’t see or feel any hair besides the stubble that never seemed to go away in the first place. On Monday I thought I felt a little bit, and by Wednesday, I definitely had peach fuzz that was both tactile and visible. It’s very soft, mostly white, and looks like it’s pretty thin so far, but historically my hair has grown very fast, so I suspect that before long I’ll exchange the peach-fuzz look for the dandelion look. There’s no warmth involved, however – I still need to wear scarves or hats to keep from freezing. Every once in a while I’ll get too warm and take off my hat to cool off, but that’s pretty rare.

My weigh-in went great on Friday – I finally made a significant loss of 2.6 pounds in one week. I was starting to get very frustrated by the minuscule losses. Then, of course, we went out of town for two days, and it’s very hard to eat out without blowing the program. I managed to do pretty well, though, and have plenty of points left to celebrate Valentine’s Day dinner at Alessandro’s ;-}

We got out to Newport Friday night around 10 p.m. The drive was fine, mostly dry, until we got over to Newport. When we woke up Saturday morning, though, there was some sunshine, and even though it clouded up over the course of the day, it never rained. Unfortunately, we hit the high tide wrong, so instead of going to the beach that day, we went out to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. We wandered through the museum, and climbed to the top of the tower. The ocean is rocky right around Yaquina Head, and with the tide in, very dramatic. That evening we played games, just having the opportunity to enjoy each others’ company without all the pressures of being home and having to deal with ‘stuff’.

Sunday we checked out and headed up the coast. We stopped for a brief stroll at Agate Beach, which, contrary to its name, had no agates that I could find, although there were some very good whole shells. Then we continued on to Lincoln City, where we stopped to visit with my Aunt Pat and Uncle Dick (and Carleton the Westie). We went to lunch at Mo’s down in Taft, which is the original restaurant – I hadn’t been there in many, many years. It was nice to catch up on family news, and see the addition on the house – they have a great view of the ocean from the new room upstairs, and it’s very cozy. Traffic home on Highways 18 and 99W was surprisingly sparse, so it only took a little more than 2 hours.

Robin enjoyed his stay with Sharon, Gary, and Jasmine. Since he wasn’t able to go to the beach, at least he got to go somewhere where they really understand him! April and Jeremy were right at the door waiting when we got home, and pretended they didn’t care that we were gone. Except that April is following Brian everywhere this evening . . .

Thank you to everyone who has made a donation or signed up so far for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk – your support for the team and me personally is greatly appreciated. More importantly, I appreciate all the moral support that everyone has been so generous with in the last few months, and I depend on it to help me get through the next surgery and recovery period. Hopefully, there will be leftover support for those who have to deal with my newly menopausal self.

Well, now that I’m home, I have to deal with ‘stuff’, like getting to bed at a reasonable hour and making sure I have enough coffee for tomorrow. All the best to you all,

Julie




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