Monday, March 31, 2008

bathing? but why?

Those of you who know me well, know about the irony of my running a company that makes and sells bath products and that I hate taking baths. A few years ago when I became a chi-runner in order to make the running part of my triathlons not suck so much I learned the value of a bath after a workout. I still don't like them, but I know that my legs hurt less the day after a workout if I take the time to have one.
I used a Harry Potter bath bomb(one of my fun, but annoying creations that involves black colouring in the mix which leaves black residue on the tub) and it smelled great. I brought a magazine, and the phone and I lay there. I lay there, like a slug or a seal or some other floundering thing wondering what the hell I was doing there. I deep conditioned my hair -and I asked myself why bother? since I am cutting my hair off in 2 weeks for the chemo gig.

I lay there and wished I had one of those desk thingys from the painting I learned about in art history class. The name of the painting escapes me, but it was some royal guy who had a skin condition who did his royal paperwork in the tub all the time and had a desk made. Maybe if I had one of those I would like the bath 'cause I could get something done while lying there like a slug.
So that settles it. I will like baths when I have a custom made tub (tubs are not made for short people like me) a special desk and some royal attendants to keep the water hot.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New news!

So, here it is. The news I have been waiting the last 3 months and 6 days to hear.

The question arose on December 18th: What is that lump in my left breast?

Today March 27th after the removal of 3 lumps, 17 lymph nodes and 1 left breast I have the answer.

I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal carcinoma with some potential lymph node involvement. Then the lumps, nodes and all the surrounding bits were taken away.

I successfully came through the long boring and painful portion of the recovery from mastectomy surgery. Now all the important body parts have been tested and we know most of the answers.

1) The lumps came out not attached to each other or to anywhere else = Good News!

2) Of the nodes removed 1 had a teeny tiny bit of cancer = Medium to Good News!

3) The tests on the lumps said they are ER negative = Good News! This meant no hormone treatments +Bad News! This meant chemotherapy was likely

4) The lumps found produce a protein that makes my type of cancer very aggressive = Bad News!

5) The tests we got today on all the other parts said there is no cancer anywhere else= Good News!

So, if you weigh the bad over the good, then things don’t seem so bad.

Altogether the simple answer is that I have to have chemotherapy for 4 months and a special antibody shot for a year after that and then my chances of having the cancer return are low. Given all the strife of the last 3 months (and 6 days) I don’t like the answer but I will take it over a harder answer. I saw a lot of people in the waiting room in the cancer clinic today that have had to take a harder answer.

I can drive now. I am awake and active all day. I will be at the store more in the next few weeks and once the chemo starts I will be there as often as I am up to it. I will likely be mostly tired and will lose my hair.

I would like to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who helped me and Luke get through the surgery and recovery process. The flowers, notes, cards, gifts and offerings were plentiful and I am very lucky to have you all in my life. Help, care, love and prayers showed themselves in many forms, all of them beautiful and some of them surprising and unexpected!

The honourable mentions go to:

-Tim who was here every night for weeks making sure Luke and I were ok

- The neighbours and friends who dutifully kept us fed with delicious food dropped off (often silently on the porch) each day

-The Harris’s fuzzy little stuffed Koala that traveled all the way from Australia

Thanks to everyone!


P.S. Luke knows all the details about the surgery and the cancer now, and seems to be ok. Thanks to all who respected my choice to keep the C-word secret from him until the time was right to tell him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cancer and Tri's ?

Hi Everyone.. here is todays question.

I am looking to chat with any endurance athletes/tri-athlete's that have trained and/ or competed while going through or just finished cancer treatments.

As y'all know I am just headed into 4 months of chemo for breast cancer. Let me know if you think of anyone that might be willing to talk with me about this.

I have read about lots of people doing it, but their stories are usually in a press piece that has very little detail.

If the summer goes well, I might be able to compete at the end of the local season, or find a Tri in Florida or something in the fall.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

not sore?

hmmm.. I went for a snowshoe yesterday.
The day was sunny and bright and it was a hot workout with all the winter layers.
I planned to see how I did at the turnaround point for the last workout, and I got there 3 minutes faster than before, so I plowed on.
I thought if I can get to 20 minutes for the turnaround then I am doing well.
At17m, I could see the next distance marker on the trail and decided to go for it. If I made it, that meant I was doubling my workout. Not usually a smart choice, but I did it.
The middle bit was a bit hard, but I got back ok. 4km! and I kept my pace consistent at 12 m/ km where the workout before was 15m/km.
I know you all want spring, but I am loudly hoping we keep enough cold to keep the snow on the rail trail here for another couple of weeks until chemo starts.

Today I took my son to church, My old church here in Dundas.
It was nice to be at church, but there were a lot of things missing. The most important thing missing was passion. The music was pleasant but passionless for the most part, the preaching was pleasant but as close to meaningless to me. On the whole, sadly it was an almost empty experience. I get asked a lot by my old church friends why I do not go very often... this is why.
The building holds many, many old memories for me both happy and tragic and everything in between, so being there can be unpleasant. I would happily attend there regularly if the place gave me any sort of inspiration... but it doesn't. It just makes me sad.
My son likes going there, so I may end up tolerating it, but I cannot imagine liking it.
Happy Easter!
Alleluia, the Lord is risen today!
.... but the place I went to today has forgotten how to make that a celebratory event.

I felt closer to God in the sun on my snowshoes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

poking and prodding and parking oh my!

Todays cancer fun was day 2 of poking and prodding week.
Yesterday I went to the right clinic to be told I was at the wrong clinic for my pelvic ultrasound. So, I walked about 4000 miles with 1.5 litres of water ( doctors orders) in my belly to get to the second clinic. I am glad I didn't need a Depends undergarment, but I would have paid money to have one in my purse in the second waiting room.
Todays excitement consisted of hanging out in the X-ray/ Nuclear med area of the Henderson hospital. First, I met the cute radiologist dude for my radioactive injection, and then I got to hang out with the hip replacement crew in the X-ray area. I learned more about hip and knee replacement today than I knew existed. Who knew that X-ray clinics only had older people at it? I got to market my website and some skin and sore muscle products to a guy from Caistor Centre and shoot the breeze with 2 other HR crew about the bad design of Hospital gowns. I see London... I see France.....!!!!
Hospitals are really one of the worst places on earth, the building designs are confusing, the people moving systems are disorganized (I sat for 30 minutes waiting to be told I was free to leave.. they had forgotten they told had me to wait) they smell simply awful... more on that later!
I left for an hour to return for my bone scan and went to the mall ( and I freakin' HATE the mall! )
I went looking in a major dept. store for a mastectomy bra section..... HA! NOT!

I got a lecture about what was in a cafe au lait from the teenage barrista girl at the coffee place.. I refrained from saying "That is not how they make them in Paris" and drank my cafe au lait that had all the fluffy foam of a cappuccino and left to go back to the hospital for the bone scan.
I parked in the lot that said " Lot Full" at the front and found the cute radiologist and lay down in the bone scannny machine. I got to see how the bones in my lower legs looked as I passed into the tubular machine 1/10th of a cm at a time ( not joking, imagine for a second, how slow that could be) Then he made me keep my head still. I think I had a nap for a few minutes, until I looked up and I thought I was in the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars with the gigantic 4 foot square wall of sensors and inch from my head.
3P0! 3P0! shut down all the garbage compactors on the detention level!

It was a little surreal.

After about 30 minutes of being pushed in and out of the strange machine, I got to finally leave and found a washroom in the lobby. A woman in a wheel chair butted in line in front of me for the washroom, so I gave up and left the hospital. I paid for my parking and managed to lose my exit the parking lot pass card between the machine and the car. If this is what happens when I am a little tired, then what the heck will happen once I get chemo brain??
What a day!
I am off to work for a few hours.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Don't overdo it!?

So every day now that I am out of bed after the surgery, someone tells me "don't overdo it" which means something to them, but if "don't overdo it" means sit around bored that won't be happening.

Today I went for a snowshoe alone on the local rail trail. I was out for 30 minutes and traveled a whopping 2 km. I my pre cancer life I would have been annoyed that I was tired at 15 minutes and pushed myself to go further. After almost no workouts for almost 4 months (A busy retail business through Xmas , cancer diagnosis, cancer surgery and recovery etc can really make time fly) I know to take it slow, and I know I have to be smart so at 15 minutes I turned around. Through the next 3 weeks I have to prepare myself for all the hell chemotherapy will bring: Fatigue, Nausea, Pain etc . I have 3 weeks to eat, workout and act as close to normal as I can for the 4 months after that will have very little that resembles normal.
For those "don't overdo it" people out there... all I can say is I promise to TRY and not overdo it.
I will however do my absolute best to not UNDERDO it either! I plan to DO IT as much, as often and as hard as I can muster through this whole darned cancer hell.

On those times when I overdo it, you will be the first ones I call from the snowbank and say...I overdid it... come and get me ... and then you can say "I told you not to overdo it" when you run me a hot bath.

Or perhaps... the "don't overdo it" people can come on my workouts with me.... that will benefit everyone right?
Then who knows maybe I will be the one dragging their sorry butts of out the snowbank.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Ya, I guess I suck at this blogging thing.
I have lots of cancer news to share, but for the same reason I don't want to talk to the other mommies on the playground I don't feel like writing.
Soon, I will tell you soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

bad blog

I have read some other breast cancer blogs and I wonder if mine is compelling enough...
I wonder too, if I give a crap... but others seem so profound, so full of advice, so soap boxy in their proclamations of misinformation... etc.
I dunno, I just like writing a little bit every day.
I worked at home for the first few hours of my day and went to my store for the first time since I came home from the hospital (ok I went for 30 minutes 10 days after the surgery to talk with a national mag writer but I was wacked out on pain killers so it seems like it did not happen)

My friend/ partner/consort / tri training partner put his 16 week training program up at his desk today. I picked my training plan too, and hope that tomorrow I can start a plan to get the food disasters under control and maybe do some easy pilates or yoga. I say this as I eat a freaking chocolate éclair. I truly believe that North American style bakeries should not be allowed to make éclairs, it really puts the French ones to shame. Custard people, crème pâtissière, NOT WHIPPED CREAM ...
Hmmm I wonder if I could do a triathlon in France someday....

Monday, March 10, 2008

home and ok

So the Doc finally saw me, and declared my gaping wound ok with a little warm water and tape I can care for it myself. A boring but satisfying outcome to a little 's' scary situation.
I figure 2 weeks max and I can get back to swimming a few hours a week.
Running? hmmm not so sure, I ran up the stairs today to get the phone (well to an outsider it may have not looked like running- more like silly post surgery idiot that has not run anywhere for weeks trying to run upstairs kinda run) and it hurt the un-boobed side a little.
Cycling.. well my detested bike trainer is going into the spare 'oom this weekend and I may try to ride it occasionally.

If I can do a tri at all this year, I hope my first one is in June.
I am planning to attend my high school reunion in May and do Tri-athlon in June??? Man, I better get off "the neighbours dropping off food diet" and quick! Last year I had to lose weight from the "My mom died diet" about this time of year, so maybe this is just the same old thing.
Tomorrow I will pick a diet, a training program and a date to start it all.
- ok, shutup. I know, In know! Take it slow Noelle, don't push it Noelle... blah blah blah...
I promise, if it hurts I will stop, and I will get the Docs approval for the diet.
Enough already, wasn't my lying in bed for 3 effing weeks enough for you people??
Finally! After many calls and waiting I am getting the gaping hole in my chest looked at by a Doctor.
I am off to try and wash and style my hair by myself for the first time in almost a month.
It could be a new frontier!
woo hoo!

Hole in my chest

So todays fun is all about the crapola medical system in Ontario, Canada. Perhaps all of Canada really.
This morning I got up and checked my new, but healing mastectomy incision, and after 5 days of antibiotics, the nasty infection I had last week is mostly cleared up. As a result of the infection I had to totally uncover the wounds and clean them. One fairly large area insists on not closing. The Girl Guide (Girl Scout to you US friends) in me says "this needs stitches" So, after calling my surgeon and my family doctor I still cannot get anyone to look at this. I tell them ( if you are squeamish you may not want to read this) " I have an inch long hole in my incision which is wide enough to stick my finger into" and I keep getting put off. The surgeon is gone for March Break, so I call the family doctor and they say "Call the home care nurses"( that I have no referral to anymore) maybe they will see you.
It is all quite exciting.
In what world is it ok to say... I have an inch long hole in my chest can you fix it? and get ignored????
I get that this is not a straightforward thing, as a result of the infection, but nonetheless can a medical professional not at least look at it for god's sake?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My first bloggy day

I may write more than once today, not sure how I will grow into this bloggy thing. I used to resent my diary/ journaling in high school and feel guilty on days I did not write, so I hope this does not go the same way. Once I found out my parents read my journals I hated journals(and my parents, at least for a while) and never wrote anything ever again.
Today I feel better than I have in the last few days. I am in week 3 of post mastectomy recovery. I am in quite a bit of nasty pain. I just discovered that my forearm is really bruisy and sore which makes typing less than fun. I am pretty determined to be close to normal by the end of April at the latest so I can get back to triathlon training in time for the June races.
I want to journal some of this time after the surgery for a few reasons, but one of them is to make sure the truth comes out about the lack of information out there about the pain I am in and the other details after mastectomy.
Todays lessons? 1) If you intend to dress yourself, get as many button up shirts as you can, trying to get something as simple as a t-shirt on is hell! 2) Cut all your hair off, or plan on having someone else do it for you. Mine is waist length and I cannot wash it or style it without help.