My account of life both on and off of two wheels...... "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wrapping things up.

Christmas has come and gone....We started off with a Christmas Eve morning ride on some new trails in Yorktown. I was so grateful to be out in the woods among good people and the fresh air.  It meant more to me than just another other group bike ride- thank you everyone that was there.  

Too far away but you get the point.

As planned, we headed into NYC for the evening with G's parents and sister.  We started off with evening mass...yes, we all went to church and it was pretty special.  The decoration, the music, the spirituality-  It was almost more than I could handle emotionally.  We spent the night in NYC after a lovely meal and with great company.  After a relaxing morning, we headed up north to my father and Anne's for a low key Christmas dinner.  Anne's parents were up from Florida and  a couple of their friends joined us as well.  I didn't take many Christmas photos but Anne sent me this one of the four of us.

Christmas Day Smiles.

Christmas was followed up by a huge snowstorm that just about shut down the east coast. We slept in that morning and realized we better hurry if we wanted to get a ride in before the trails were all gone...The traction was perfect and G and I had a great ride in the woods that day.

Stopping for a rest and a photo opportunity. 

The following day after the storm,  my guy frantically shoveled the car out so I could make it to my radiation treatment (we don't want to miss any). That afternoon we met up with some friends for some sledding up at Rockwood- this has and always will be a prime place to go sledding because the hill is so steep and  the view of the Hudson is fantastic.  I was pretty tired from treatment and feeling a little fragile, so I opted to watch. G and I walked around amidst the sledders while the wind howled and tried to blow us off the hill.  The wind was so strong that day that it almost blew all the snow off the top of the hill.
G posing at the top of the hill. 

Seeking shelter under a tree.

The new year is almost here and of course the end of my radiation treatment is coming to an end.  I was hoping to be finished by December 31st, but it turns out I have one more left on Monday.  But that is ok, as I have to see Dr M anyway for a follow up.

Like many people, the end of the year is a time when we look back and reflect on where we have been.  I started to remember back to last New Years and how I had no clue what would lie ahead for me.  G moved in last February and shortly after that ( not even two months later) I was diagnosed with cancer.  Frankly, that is as far as I went with this "looking back" on the year crap. So much of the last year  is still very dark for me to think about.  I can only look forward from here.

As you can imagine, I am anxious to start a new year.  While much of the effects of my treatments will linger,  G continues to remind me that I have come a long way since May.  I continue to try and stay in the moment, but there is some level of anticipation of what this new year will bring.  All I really wish for is to be healthy and cancer free. A pretty simple wish for most people, as we take for granted our health- but this year that is all I hope for.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for what might happen in 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The final countdown.

It is the final countdown of my radiation treatments.   I have 5...yes only 5 more radiation treatments left.  I am exhausted but surprisingly finding the energy to get a lot done in a day.  It must be the excitement that this huge part of my treatment is almost over.  I might be over doing it a bit since I passed out on the couch last night before 9 pm.

The treatments are going as planned.  About two weeks ago, my skin started to develop an itchy rash on my sternum and my collarbone.  This is to be expected and Dr. M. does not seem to be too concerned.  If my skin starts to bubble and peel, than we up the medicine to something stronger but for now, I will keep using this steroid cream and Biafine.  It seems to be doing the trick and my skin remains status quo.   I was advised that the skin could get worse after I stop treatments.  I guess the effects of the radiation keep going and then the skin begins to heal.

Like most, this has been a hectic month.  I have had all my routine Doctor appointments and then some.   I have been able to work more now that I am feeling better but I still get tired quickly.  We have been more social with holiday parties and G had a birthday last week.
It was too cold for a ride so we went for a hike instead.  
We went out to eat at the Red Hat - Make a wish G!
Even thought we did not ride on G's birthday, we did manage to get some really great riding in last weekend.  Saturday we ventured up the OCA  for a two hour pedal.  Always good for my endurance training.  Sunday was a surprisingly balmy 35 degrees and after a great nights rest and relaxing morning, we headed to Graham Hills.  I felt steady for the first time in a while and G and I had a great time in the woods.

Christmas is days away and I almost finished my holiday baking and trying to tie up some loose ends for the big day.  We plan to spend Christmas Eve and morning with G's family in the city and then Christmas afternoon at my fathers.  It took me a while to get into any sort of holiday spirit but baking my traditional and not so traditional holiday goodies helped.

Oatmeal Cranberry cookies- my new favorite. 
Mini Zucchini Breads- apparently they are delicious 
I had good intentions of getting holiday cards out....sorry in advance, but it didn't happen.  I am grateful to have so much love in my life.  Thank you to all of my family and friends who have helped me during a very difficult time in my life. Especially to my guy for all you have done for me this year.  It has not been easy and I'm sure at times I have not been easy to deal with.  I could not have done this with out you. 

So, the final countdown of this phase of treatment and 2010 is near.  Merry Christmas to you and your families and here is to a healthy and peaceful new year!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Halfway and cold days.

Winter has hit NY pretty hard.  We have been enjoying a mild fall until this past weekend.  It got cold really quick.  While most people flee for the indoors, we sought shelter in the woods.  My guy has been a big motivator to get me back out there riding.  Not only did he build me a new plush bike to ride ( yes, my guy is awesome) but he is always enthusiastic about riding our bikes and encouraging  me.  As much as I love riding my bike more than anything, I came to a harsh realization-I am at the bottom of my game.  I even took a moment on Saturday and said, out loud - I think I will quit mountain biking....It's just too hard.  I expect to be out of shape but I feel like I am so far behind where I was last April that it will be impossible to ever have that same connection to my bike.  Maybe there is some truth to that. 

Sunday was the colder of the two days and even though "I quit mountain biking" the day prior, my guy and two of our dear friends convinced me otherwise. That morning, I sat in G's car while we waited for our friends to arrive.  The heat was pumping out of the vents and the seat warmers were roasting my butt and I thought, how did I used to do this?  I actually used to ride in colder weather than that and even snow!   

This was taken last year on New Years Eve day. I don't remember if I was cold but look at those smiles. 
There was no snow on Sunday but I was bundled up and feeling the chill.  While I am still off my game and still out of shape, I managed to have a great time in the woods.  Isn't that what it is really about anyway?

Vortex update:

I have passed the halfway point of my radiation treatments.  I have completed 17 out of 33 treatments and so far, it has been pretty uneventful.  The daily routine is getting old but I just keep reminding myself that this will not last forever.  My skin is turning the perfect "pink" and while it is tender, it is holding up strong.

My three weeks were up and I had my Herceptin treatment yesterday.  For the first time in months I did not have much to complain to Dr. W about. I'm sure she was happy about that.

It is hard to believe all the crap I have had to go through the past 9 months. It is a very long treatment process to which oddly, I am very grateful for.  Without these treatments.....well, we don't need to discuss that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I think it is time.

Although this has not been done intentionally- I have been holding onto my hair.  Yes my hair that I was and still am planning on sending into Locks of Love. I didn't really mean to hold onto it this long, really I did not.  

If you recall back in July, I took control of the inevitable. My chemo induced hair loss.  I cut it short and saved the ponytail to send into Locks of Love.  Two weeks later in August, I had my second treatment and my hair started falling out rapidly so I went for the buzz cut.   Things seemed a bit manic those days and I usually felt horrible on the days following treatment so after I had come back from the salon with my ponytail, I just put it in a zip lock bag and set it on a shelf.  While I was reorganizing things  a month or so ago, I stumbled upon it.  I thought about not opening the bag but I couldn't resist.  There is was.  My beautiful ponytail.  I ran my fingers through it, held it up to the light to see the beautiful colors and thought- Oh how I miss this hair.  Wait, this is so weird.  I have to mail this right away.  I scratched my bald head, thought about my beautiful hair and put it back in the envelope ready to mail but left it unsealed.  Life got busy and than I forgot again....damn it.  Is it chemo brain or can I just not let go of this ponytail?

Do you know how much i loved my long hair? I did. If I were to be vain about myself physically, one of the two things would have been my long hair.

Over the past month my hair has started to grow back pretty quickly.  I wish my eyebrows and eyelashes would come back quicker but all in due time.'s growing!

I think it is time to let go and allow for "new growth".  During this whole cancer process, somethings have been harder than others to let go of.  I thought I would be thicker skinned with the hair loss but frankly, I'm over being bald or worrying about covering up my head in public.  At least it is wool hat season!
The envelope is sealed and ready to go.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Week two of radiation and Thanksgiving.

I kept thinking over the course of last weekend that I was tired from such a long week of appointments, but I am now beginning to think the radiation has a huge part in why I am feeling so exhausted these days. 
Saturday morning G and I attempted to get up and meet a group ride at Blue Mountain, but even with our best efforts (OK, so maybe we could have tried harder) we missed the departure time by an hour.  It is just as well since I was not feeling on top of my game.  We rode for a couple hours and while we managed to find some of the group in the woods for a nice chat- we rode for the most part, just the two of us.  I am so grateful to have such a great guy who wants to ride with me no matter what.  I always enjoy our time together and the time in the woods is even more special. 

After our ride on Saturday, I chose to rest up since I had plans to go to my mom’s for dinner.  My brother and his family were in town for the night and I didn’t want to miss my chance to play with my nephew.  I was still pretty tired, but managed to find the energy to give my nephew his first lesson of flashlight tag- priceless.  By the end of the night, I could hardly lift my arms (not sure what that is all about) and I no longer can scoop my nephew up in my arms to lift him up to my chest.  I am too weak…not to mention he is getting really big.
"do you think we will see any animals?"

Sunday morning had a lazy start.  G and I slept in and decided to keep things simple and we headed up the Aqueduct toward Croton.  It’s a great workout but not too hard on my body.  I felt surprisingly better than the day before.  We headed north from the house. 
Golden trails. 
Trying to get a selfie while pedaling. 
I better quit playing with the camera...G might catch me. 
Big Bird in Flight.
Lunch at the Silver Tips Tea House- Post ride.
It was a golden Sunday and I would not have done anything different- Except maybe take my anti anxiety pill before I went to bed.  

Unfortunately, I did not sleep well this past Sunday night, so come Monday morning, I  was once again exhausted.  I have tried to wean myself off my anti-anxiety medicine, but this may not be a good time for me to do this with all the appointments for my radiation treatments.  I woke up Sunday night in a total panic.  G is once again, so comforting.  He wrapped his arm around me with sweet kisses and whispered “it will be ok; shhhhh-it will be ok.” I could not really remember all the details of what really woke me up expect the feeling like my heart was going to jump right out of my chest.
During my radiation treatments, Monday appointments are a little longer than the rest of them.  I go into the radiation room as normal but before they can do the treatment, they have to take x-rays to make sure nothing has changed since the week prior.  Apparently I had a 1mm change in one of the 4 settings but nothing that can’t be corrected by the touch of a button.  After my treatment, the nurse comes and gets me and I meet with the doctor.  Dr M always answers all my questions and helps me get through some of my concerns.  He reminds me again of why I need radiation and takes a look at my skin to make sure I’m holding up ok.  So far, so good and I will continue to use the Aquaphor as a moisturizer until he advises me otherwise.  

Today after my radiation treatment, I had an echocardiogram.  While on the Herceptin drug, I am required to have my heart checked every three months.  I opted out of the MUGA scan this time since it is more radiation to my body and the eco is non-invasive and done with ulta sound.  From a clinical standpoint, it isn't always the best read on the heart, but my tech was able to get a great picture this morning.  The good news is my heart looks normal and I'm good to go!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. I get the day off of treatment only because they are closed.  I will be back on schedule Friday morning.  I am happy to have the extra break in the week and plan to enjoy my morning with my guy on the trails before we head to his parents for the feast. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Working on my tan.

I started my radiation therapy this week.  This is the newest  phase in my  Cancer vortex.  I had been looking forward to having another week "off" of any sort of treatment since the initial plan was to start after Thanksgiving, but in some ways it is best to just get this over with.

Radiation will be a series of 33 treatments-  It will be done every day, Monday-Friday over a course of roughly 6 weeks. It is not as simple as just showing up for treatments. There is a two part process  to go through before I could actually start my treatments. 

The first part was to have my simulation done- which I did a couple weeks ago.  Each new phase has been nerve wracking.  Anyone can tell you what to expect but until you are there, in the moment, you never really know how you will react.  On the morning of my simulation, I was lead into the dressing room by a  very pleasant radiation therapist.  He showed me where I would change and where the lockers were to store my personal belongings.  Every day I will come in there, get undressed from the waste up and put a gown on.  I will sit and wait for the therapist to come and get me.   The radiation oncology department has a different intensity to it.  Everyone who has gone through this tells me it is “easier” than chemo, but for me it completes this sci-fi experience of the whole cancer vortex.   Maybe I just watched too many Twilight Zone episodes with my father (mind you I was under 10 years old and these were very scary) but there is something to be said about what goes through your mind when you enter the cold, sterile rooms.  There are giant machines in the middle of the room and molds of other patients body parts stacked up on a shelf. These molds each have their own story to tell, but this of course is mine. 

For the simulation, I walked into this huge room and there is a CT scanning machine in the middle and a large glass viewing room off to the side.  The nice radiation therapist ( they are all lovely people)  was trying to make me feel more comfortable with my surroundings.  He began to explain to me what will be happening.  I had read the little radiation booklet they gave me during my consultation, but who really remembers all of that when you are in the moment?  I was told I had to lie down on the long metal sliding table with my left arm up over my head and not move for at least 30 minutes.  During this time, my radiation oncologist Dr. M is sitting in the booth viewing the scan and starting the process to create my own personal radiation map.  The CT scan helps to make sure he knows where my heart and lungs are situated so he can try to avoid them-I certainly wouldn’t want them to just point and shoot.  On the table I was laying on is a bag filled with a chemical mixture similar to the molding foam you can get from the Home Depot.  It is in a bag so it doesn’t actually touch my skin, but it is heat activated so while I’m lying there not moving, they are also creating a mold of my torso.  This mold will be used for each treatment to ensure I’m in the same position each time.  Once Dr M. got the map of my chest that he was comfortable with, they then used these red laser lights from the ceiling to help the therapist mark my body with a Sharpie.  He then actually tattoos a dot in each one of those spots. I think I have about 7 of these marks.  This is to show the radiation team where my radiation field is (where to zap me).  They will use these permanent tattoos daily when they set me up on the radiation table. 

Part two is what they call a dry run.  This is to double check that everything is all set to go.  I had to go in last week and this was actually done in the radiation room.  There are two rooms.  One on the left and one on the right.  I will always be in the room on the left. I guess it is  all about consistency and routine.  Both have huge doors that slide open with red and green lights over them to indicate a treatment in session.  I was not receiving a treatment on that day but they walked me through the exact steps.  They had to take some more x-rays, line me up to my
 tattoos and make sure the field and the map all match up.  I do like all this double, triple checking- I would hate to have them miss!  I have even had a nightmare that I moved while being radiated and everyone screamed “NO, STOP the Machine”.  It was a  horrible dream.

Monday, the day of my first radiation treatment, came very quickly.  I was very nervous.  I got up on the cold metal table which had only a sheet and my mold on it.  I nestled right into my mold and my therapist is talking me through the process again while the lights are off and she is using those red laser lights to line up to my tattoos.  I had my head turned slightly right so I could not really see what she was doing. She has me all set up to go and before she leaves the room, she asks me what music I like.  There is a CD player in there but I forgot my music-  They had told me I could bring my own music.  But since I did not, she turns on the lights so she can see me from the outside viewing monitors, hits play on the CD player and walks out of the room saying “I think it is the sound track to Glee.  Ok, I will be right back and remember stay still”  

I am all alone in what is now the very bright cold scary room- I am not only not able to move, but I am stuck listing to a horrible rendition of "Don’t Stand So Close to Me" from Glee.  Note to self, bring your own music.  I close my eyes and try to find my happy place but can’t help the tears rolling down my cheeks into my ear.  Thank GOD this doesn’t last but 6 weeks and each session is only about 15 minutes.  I tell myself  "I can do this."  Now, what music do you think would go best with radiation? 

Monday has come and gone and I have completed my first 5 treatments and I have only 28 more to go.  It has gotten a little less scary but I am still nervous about what it is doing to my skin and my body.  I still have to finish reconstruction at some point down the line and I would hate to develop lymphodemia after all of this crap.  I have pretty fare skin and I’m already turning a little pink.  Right when I leave the treatment room I have to put Aquaphor on the area in which they are treating.  This area starts from my sternum, down to my lower rib cage, up under my arm where they removed my lymph nodes and all the way up over my clavicle.  Of course don’t forget the breast itself.  They are treating this large area due to my pathology results.  I had positive lymph nodes and extra nodal extension which means the cancer got into the fatty tissue surrounding my lymph nodes.  The clavicle area is because there is breast tissue that high up that cannot be removed in surgery and there are lymph nodes up there they want to treat as well.  They are also radiating my chest wall, near where my tumor was, just in case the cancer decided to detour to my lungs.  I have to keep reminding myself that my PET scan was clear and I received clear tumor margins and this is all done as insurance to try to keep from getting a local recurrence.

I had a routine follow up with my oncologist Thursday before I had to get my Herceptin treatment.  It is hard to believe it has been three weeks but time flies….My blood counts were “perfect” so it is good to know my body is bouncing back and that I am able to produce my own white blood cells without the help of modern medicine. Just a combination of  healthy eating, fresh air and riding my bike are all that I need.
It is Saturday which means I get two days off of working on my tan. I am looking forward to another great fall weekend of riding with my guy. Yes, I am back riding after my little mishap two weeks ago-my ribs and bruising have healed up quickly.  I remain cautious but frankly, I have to ride my bike.  It is what keeps me centered. 

I hope you have a great weekend!
Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Waiting for my Super Muscles.

Since I was a little girl, I have been told by my father, time and time again, that I have special “super muscles”.  It wasn’t always what a girl wanted to hear, but to this day at age 36, my father reminds me of these so called super muscles.  I know that I am not really a super hero or have these so called super muscles– so don’t worry I have not lost all my marbles! 
My body has been pretty beat up over the past 6 months with surgery, all the drugs pushed through my system and the lack of sleep that I am still so unfamiliar with this new state of “fragile” that I am in.   I am not use to limiting my physical activities or not eating certain foods to avoid getting sick or mouth sores.  I even have been opting out of social events to avoid getting sick. 
My last visit with my oncologist was on October 28 and on that day my blood counts were all on the low side.  Since I was finished with the major chemo treatments, the doctors preferred to let my body generate new white blood cells all on its own- so I did not receive the shot to help this process.   Since I was not getting the shot it would leave me more susceptible to infections and germ.  My doctor gave me not so specific instructions, but two simple instructions: I was told to take it easy and not to play in the dirt.   I had to ask if that meant mountain biking and she said she would prefer I didn’t.  And if I got a fever of 100.4 or higher, I was to call.   I listened to half of her instructions, which mean I took it “easy” and only played in the dirt one day.  I did take my temperature a lot.  It was Halloween weekend and while I would have liked to go out and about, I opted to stay in and keep clear of large crowds. I also wanted to save my energy for the trails.

Some highlights of that weekend. 
Halloween day- I played in the dirt.

Making yummy whole wheat cinnamon apple walnut pancakes for my guy.
And carving our pumpkin- spooky

It wasn’t as hard to listen that weekend as it was this past weekend.  I have been feeling a lot better and the weather was on the cooler side but sunny and perfect for the woods.  Saturday G and I took a mellow but long adventure ride up the Aqueduct.  It is a great way for us to get our continuous pedaling and stay off the streets where it is always colder.
Sunday was the first group ride I have done since May. It was at Blue Mountain with a bunch of folks I know from the WMBA.  This is the time of year that most people come out for much more social riding.  Nobody is really in a hurry or training for anything as the race season is over for most.  When we arrived on Sunday morning the lot was full of fellow riders ready to head into the woods- it was so great!  It has always taken me about 30 minutes to warm up but this morning was a lot different.  We had about 19 people on this ride so where I usually would be right up at the front of the pack, I quickly shuffled myself to the back of the line.  I have had to let go of my ego and remember to ride within my new limits.  I didn’t want to blow the day in the first 10 minutes trying to keep up.   I am not that same girl I was prior to surgery- not yet at least.   I was riding stronger than I have been and feeling more comfortable with my bike handling skills since before my surgery. Although I had moments of brilliance (I cleaned a really technical rock garden that on good days I may only clean 50% of the time!!),  I had moments where I would go around an obstacle or dismount and walk it if I was unsure of myself.  Hesitation will knock you right off your bike.  That or your handle bars clipping a tree! 

I was starting to get tired and knew that we were almost done with the ride.  I was pedaling with G and a couple friends of mine at the back of the pack.  I know they were back there to hang out with me and I was happy to have the company.   We were not on a particularly technical trail, but it is a brand new trail so I didn’t know it all.  That is when it happened- My handle bar clipped a tree and which sent me flying and causing me to land on the end of my handle bar – right to the stomach.  I have always played hard and fallen harder, but this time it was different.   In the past I would jump up, brush off the dirt and hop back on the bike.   It always hurt but this day I was reminded how fragile I really was.   I was relatively lucky considering how quickly a fall could cause a ruckus with all the plastic in my chest right now; it could have been pretty ugly.  After a quick trip to the doctor today,  it  doesn’t appear to have done too much damage, but I am still pretty sore today.
I am more fragile than I use to be and no matter how I may look to others on the outside, I am not the same.  I struggle with feeling week and tired- it is so hard.  Every day I wake up and hope that my special “super muscles” will kick in and help me. 

None of this will stop me from riding my mountain bike- when my gut doesn’t hurt so badly, I will ride again, but I promise to be more careful.  

Here are a few shots that G took on Sunday.  

Double Wheelie.

Look out! 
Staying focused- this is not where I fell.
Keeping steady.
Most of the gang stopping for a break.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

He's here!

I just have to share the exciting news that my sister had her baby early this morning.  Mom and baby boy are all doing well.
I am a very proud and happy aunt today! 

Happy Birthday Jesse Alexander!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A colorful future.

Last Thursday marked the end of my chemotherapy treatment- hopefully forever!  It was quite anticlimactic for me, but none the less, another part of this long process completed.   

 I am still working through the side effects- Emotional as well as the physical.  Some of the side-effects have gotten worse, which was to be expected.  These drugs have so many effects on my body ( and mind) that I have forgotten what is ‘normal’ - I am hopeful they will pass with time.  The doctor says there is a chance that some of them will not go away.  We discussed this in her office on Thursday when I told her of some new side- effects ( they don’t tell you all of them before you sign on the dotted line): most concerning was that it was starting to get bad in my feet.   She leaned back in her chair, looked me straight in the eyes and said “I want to give you this last dose, but I cannot take it out of you once it is in you and you need to be aware that this may be permanent”.  She left the choice up to me- take the last treatment knowing this side-effect could get worse and may be permanent or opt out of the last recommended treatment.  I guess you could say my decision was made mostly out of fear.  Not the fear of permanent nerve damage, but the fear that if I did not proceed with her recommend treatment, I could increase my chance of recurrence (stage IV metastatic breast cancer to one of my organs) - I opted to take the drug.   The pain and numbness in my hands and feet have gotten worse.My lips are numb again as well.  I feel as if I made the best choice that I could.  It is a good thing I am not really a runner.  I can pedal with numb feet – I think. But I can do without the sharp pains.
Lately, I have had friends ask me questions like: “did it work?”, “are you all better now?”, “how do they know it’s all gone?”  .  We never really know for sure if it worked.  We just assume (hope and pray) it did.  They will not do repeated scans on me as that would subject me to unnecessary radiation but they will do blood tests to check if my tumor markers are elevated.  I was told by my doctor on the day I started the chemo treatments that my tumor markers were normal and did not show to be elevated.  That and a clear PET scan was a good thing.  Blood tests are not always the best determinant if the disease is progressing or not, but it does give them a guideline.  I am told that there is no evidence to prove that a patient’s prognosis is any different if they find recurrence through a scan or if the patient shows symptoms.  Now I need to work on trying not to panic every time I have a cough or a headache and wonder if it has spread to my brain or my lungs.  Fear can be a powerful thing. 
Now what?  I still have a ways to go.  Since there is no cure for cancer, as a cancer diagnosis never goes away, there are still treatments I can have to help prevent recurrence.  I will continue with my Herceptin treatments every 3 weeks until September 2011.  I still have to go through 6 weeks of radiation that will start right after Thanksgiving.  Once I complete radiation, I will start taking the Tamoxifen pill for the next 5 years.
In the meantime, I will be trying to recover from the chemotherapy and hopefully get to enjoy some time on my bike.  The woods have been so amazingly beautiful here in NY.  I love the change of season and all the beauty it brings with it. 

Some great colors in a place that is close to my heart. 
Even on a cloudy/rainy day. 
"so many roads to ease my sole.." Jerry Garcia

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Long road: A new mileage record on the road bike this past weekend.

We rode our mountain bikes on Saturday at Graham Hills for a couple of hours.  Although I rode well and did more technical sections than I have done post surgery- the mountain biking still takes a lot out of me.  So as much as I preferred riding in the woods, the road bike was the plan for Sunday.  G and I left the house with no expectations other than to enjoy the beautiful day together on our bikes.  As it turns out, I had pretty good legs and we were able to make it 42 miles! 

The only thing that could steal my fire that day was the reminder that next Sunday I would feel like junk again. 
Tomorrow is my last chemo treatment.  I guess one would think that I would be a little more excited.  Maybe I will feel different once the last of the side-effects clears out of my system- will all the side-effects ever go away?  I know I still have a long road ahead.   Anyone that has been around me during the last 4months knows that I get a bit grumpy the day prior to my treatments.  I guess it is because I know what is coming.

I do hope that this is the last chemotherapy that I will EVER need again.  

G captures a techy moment.
Smiles all day.  
Long Road.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Solo riding.

Today was my first solo ride since before my surgery.  It took a lot for me to motivate but I had to get outside on this beautiful day.  I took off on my road bike.  Wow, it felt so strange but pleasantly familiar at the same time.  My legs felt surprisingly good.  The fall colors are becoming more vivid and I could hear the leaves crunching under my tires even over my i-pod.  The Lakes were calm and empty of all the geese.  They seem to have already left for the season.

I forgot how my perspective can change when it is just me and my bike.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Free time has new meanings.

Time has been very precious for me these days.   I am usually running from one doctor appointment to the next one. And when I’m feeling “good” I am trying to get as much done in between appointments as I can without overdoing it.  That means some sacrifices: Work, exercise and mostly social seems to have fallen down the list. I am trying to slowly put them back up the priority list but it is not always that easy.   Just when I think I have my groove back, I have another appointment to squeeze into my day or I am too tired to do all the things I used to do in a day. Then it is time to get my treatment and the cycle begins again.  

No matter how I mentally or physically prepare for these treatments, the outcome is almost the same.  The Taxol drug has been different but still miserable all the same. Thursday I get my treatment- it feels like a long day in the hospital.  I am usually fine on Friday and most of Saturday so I try to get things done. Starting Saturday night- the restless leg syndrome kicks in and I know what is coming.  By morning, the pain will start in my pelvis and it shoots all the way down to my big toe.   I am so exhausted that the idea of doing anything let alone go down my stairs makes me want to cry.   It is predictable down to the very hour or minute.  I had to get the Neulasta shot this time (the white blood cell booster) as my counts dropped substantially after my last treatment since I didn't receive it.  It just adds to the leg pain but it will keep me on track for my last treatment.  Yes, the last treatment is scheduled for October 21.  If I can keep myself out of trouble between now and then…I will be finished with the chemotherapy part of my treatment. 

These horrible days do not last forever and when my schedule allows, I am enjoying the awesome fall weather we have been having.  I am riding mostly on the road bike and only a few days a week.  I have been trying to see more friends and being more social again.  I have missed that so much.  Lunch dates have been special, early morning coffee or walks. Even those  20 minutes in-between-appointments to grab a cup of tea with a friend… those moments mean so much to me. 
Me and C. - friends, sunshine and a cup of tea make me smile.  

This photo was actually taken by a kind women that was also at Starbucks while we were having a quick tea. She must have heard us laughing about our quick visit and followed us outside where she offered to take our photo- thank you D. for capturing our smiles. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

October- when did that happen?!

It is still hard for me to believe that it has been six months since this whole cancer process started.   It was April 2 when I went in for my ultra sound.  I will never forget the look on my radiologists face and the tone of her voice when she reviewed my images.  I sat in her office with my mammogram x-rays surrounding us like I was in some sci-fi movie.  I know that she knew from those many, many films that were lit up on her wall that I had cancer.   I had no idea how much my life was going to change that day.  I do remember being really scared-I still am.   In a way I’m still not sure what is going on and I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this such luck.

In attempt to keep things “normal” I keep trying to participate in life as much as I can even when it is hard for me. Last Sunday, was a challenge for me.  G had been working on a project for some time now and it involved an underground, grassroots’ bike race of sorts-The Bottle Ride.  He would be hosting this ‘event’ and of course I did not want to miss this. While this was his dream for a few years, I felt very much a part of the final process.   Unfortunately it was scheduled for 3 days post treatment so there was no telling how I was going to feel. That morning, I felt exhausted after not sleeping very well.  I actually have not slept well since March, but this was a particularly rough night.  I managed to put on my tough girl, invisible wonder woman costume on and drag myself to The Bottle Ride and help my guy.  It was not easy, but it felt so great to be there and be a part of this as it meant a lot to both of us that I was there.  He tried to talk me out of it but anyone that knows me, knows when I get something in my mind that I rarely listen.  The event was a wonderful success and I was so proud of him for following through on this dream and not letting my cancer stop him.

Sunday afternoon and Monday were just as I expected.  My joints and bones ached so much that I just had to keep reminding myself, this is all temporary.   While it does and did pass – for the most part, I know I have to do this all over again next week.  It gets harder and harder to keep up my strength and spirit but I only have two more to go!

I have been struggling with a few things the past couple weeks: The exhaustion has set in both physically and mentally.  I have been told by the nurses that I’m slightly anemic due to the chemotherapy and that is just normal.  My white blood cells dropped substantially and I just hope my body can regenerate more before next Thursday so I can stay on schedule.  My body is really taking quite a hit and now I understand firsthand what people meant when I would  hear them say -the treatments will make you sick in order to get you well

As I go circling around this vortex, I get caught up in it all and have realized how isolating this process can be.  As much as I do not want cancer to define me, it does take up a ton of my time and energy right now.  It is hard not to think about it all the time and I find myself talking about it way more than I want to.  I can keep hoping for that day that might pass when I don’t remember that I have cancer.
So in the spirit of trying to stay normal…G and I had purchased tickets to see the film screening of Chasing Legends.  It was only playing one night in NYC so regardless of the pouring rain or me not being on top of my game, we kept to the plan.  During my weekly Herceptin treatment Thursday morning, my chemo nurse suggested I put on my wig (yes I bought a wig a while back) and meet my guy in the city, not as the girl with cancer but as his girlfriend.  That is exactly what I did.  It was pretty funny watching the look on G’s face when he passed right by me on the street.  He was looking for his girl- but not the one with hair!  What a great night we had.   I drove in as the theatre was on the upper west side and we met for dinner and headed to the movie at the Symphony Space.  Great venue, fantastic movie and great date night with my guy!

So it is now October and yes it is breast cancer awareness month.  We are surrounded by pink ribbons and commercials and walks to raise money for research and awareness and hopefully one day a cure.   Of course I am in favor of all of this but there is so much commercialism that surrounds this cause that it makes me feel a little weird about it.  I have heard from other survivors that they dread October as it’s a reminder of their disease and that they don’t like how everything “turns pink”.   I have not decided really how I feel about it all.  It is all still so new and I am still so vulnerable.   

I will say that I have come to find some great resources out there for woman with breast cancer.  I am also one to support locally when I can so, with that being said I will be walking this Sunday October 3 for the 16th annual Support –A Walk at FDR State Park in New York.   All proceeds benefit Support Connection –“not-for-profit organization that provides emotional, social, and educational support services to women, their families and friends affected by breast and ovarian cancer. The support provided enables women to help each other and empowers them to become their own health care advocates.”   I know where the money is going so that makes me feel good about the cause and I am personally grateful to have access to this resource.  

Have a great weekend everyone and happy Fall!

Great film...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's the little things.....

Lunch today- yes it's homemade too! 

Sometimes it is the little things that I use to take for granted.....tasting my food and not having it taste like metal!    That is one of the many lovely side effects of chemotherapy.  Especially during the first half.  Here is hoping that does not change tomorrow when I go in for treatment #6, but for today it is wonderful!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back at Blue

As I approached the technical stream crossing- the one that appears in the photo on my blog title- I  go for it, but was not fully committed.  In mountain biking if you are not fully committed to clearing an  obstacle it can end badly- focus and no hesitation is crucial.   I hit the first rock the wrong way with my front wheel and realized I better hop off the bike.  I have done this section of the trail a hundred times.  I even looked up at my friends and asked "haven't I done this crossing since surgery?".  Wait, that can't be since I have not been to Blue mountain since last May-  I must have been dreaming about it. 

Saturday was my first day riding at Blue Mountain since before my surgery in May.  In that 5 month time period, a lot has changed both on the trails and with my body.  Mother nature has added some new obstacles and cancer has given me new personal obstacles.  I am trying to get used to my new body and trying to proceed with caution so as not to hurt myself.  I have just received my compression sleeve from the physical therapist and it is making a world of difference for my arm.  While I do not have lymphedema, I sure don't want to get it. This sleeve is just being worn as a preventative measure but it also did help the tricep pain I've been having. 
I felt out of sorts when we first got going but as I got warmed up I was able to figure out what I could do and what would just be too much for me - for now.  I have gotten a lot stronger but I do have a ways to go.Regardless of all the new challenges,  it was a great day in the woods with my guy and we were even able to meet up with some friends and ride with them for a bit.

Objects may appear larger......

While riding my mountain bike at Blue Mountain was a highlight, the overall weekend was great. 

Friday night we took to the town on our single speeds.  There were two street fairs going on so we figured we would check them both out and than grab a slice of pizza at my favorite pizza joint Fleetwood Pizzeria .  It has been closed down for 2 1/2 years after a horrible fire but just reopened this past week.  G thought that the town had gone mad about the reopening of a pizza place, but he soon found out for himself what everyone was raving about.  While I can't make a habit out of going there, it sure will hit the spot after a long ride!

Better than I remember and they still sell RC in the can!  
Sunday we decided to ride the road bikes.  It was my first time pedaling from the house up to the north country trail.  That means....the big hill!  I made it to the top and still had some legs and lungs to spare.  It was another beautiful day and although my legs were tired from the mountain bike ride the previous day and all the treatments,  I was just shy of reaching my goal which is to go from the house to Yorktown Heights.  We did pedal 32 miles with a big hill so I am thrilled with my progress!