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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Swinging into the New Year!

The holidays have really taken me for a ride this year.   I had higher expectations for my spirits to be up and my energy to out last all the parties and plans I had made. It really took me a big push to get into the holiday spirit.  Last year, I was at the end of my radiation treatment and pretty exhausted but managed to really pull off a lot more than I did this year or maybe not…maybe it just seems that way.  I must have been functioning in that strange energy of the ‘cancer vortex’ and not even realizing how exhausted I was. 
Our holiday has been pretty wonderful and I am grateful for that!  It really started off with G’s birthday mid month and continued on full speed ahead from there.  We have been enjoying the extra socializing with family and friends and the weather has been unseasonably warm so we are getting out on our bikes.  We actually canceled our New Year’s weekend travel plans to stay home.  It is just too much and I am tired.  I want to start the New Year off feeling refreshed.  Besides, training starts um…now!  Got to get my body back in shape and I only have less than 4 months to do it.
I thought about reflecting on the past year and trying to write about it.   I sat down and stared at my computer…Nah.  I do not want to look back.  It is only forward from here. 

Stay tuned for what will hopefully be more posts about riding and racing bikes and less about, dare I say it- cancer!
Here is to a healthy and peaceful 2012 for all! 


Group ride Christmas Eve- thanks for the photo Bill W!
G and I bumped into a friend during our Christmas morning ride and he snapped our photo- thanks SPP!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting back on track.

I have quite a bit of filler I could use to bring you up to date on the past few weeks but I won't bother with every detail.  For the most part, things having been getting better. Just hectic since after Thanksgiving so not much time to write.  Here are some highlights from the weekend in Maine.  

After a very rainy drive, we woke up Thanksgiving morning to this beautiful snowy day. 
Great walk before the feast.
All cleaned up  and ready for dinner. 
At my sisters house with my nephews.  I think D was excited for his Star Wars Legos we brought him.  
J is getting so big!  

Cuddled up with my beautiful sister ♥  It was cold up in Maine!

The most important thing that I can report is I am finally getting back on track.  I am some what superstitious so tend to be hesitant to write these sorts of statements, but I am feeling good.  Some of it must be the further out I get from my last surgery and some of it is me finally jumping off the 'pity pot' and just doing what I know I need to do.  

My new boobs don't quite feel like mine yet.  They feel like more of an accessory most days.  It is not that I have much of a choice right now but I am giving them a chance.  I can't just take them off when they don't feel right. Clothes are fitting better, I am sleeping better and I feel a bit more comfortable on the bike.  My plastic surgeon is pleased with my results and she thinks my healing has finally turned a corner.  She is already discussing the next phase - nipple reconstruction and revisions.  Yes, revisions.  A couple things are just not quite as she would like them.  "I would not want to do anything until at least January" she said on my most recent follow up.  My response was "January 2013 is more of what I had in mind!”. There is no way I can mentally handle another surgery right now or in the near future.  I need to change my focus onto something else. 

I have a heavy but exciting race schedule ahead for next season and it will start in mid April.  I better get my butt in gear.  I have been back in the woods riding when I can to get more comfortable on the bike again.  I also decided to hell with my indoor trainer-it is lonely and boring!   I know, some of you don’t believe in this form of training but I am taking spin classes again.   I enjoy being outdoors so much more but some mornings it is just too damn cold or I do not have enough time.  I push myself more in these classes than I do at home on the trainer by myself.  There are a couple good instructors I know and they teach great classes so I decided to sign up.  It actually may help me focus on finding my speed again.  I know it is too early to really start working on speed for next season but honestly, I have gotten slower than a turtle since my treatments began 20 month ago.

I have been feeling a bit off balance and dizzy for a quite a while now.  I keep telling myself it will go away or get better.  It has not gotten better but it does not seem to have gotten any worse. There is an unwritten rule or saying in the cancer vortex – wait two weeks and in some cases wait a little longer- it may just go away on its own.  I never said anything to my oncologist during my visit back in September but I just had my 3 month follow up last week and thought I should let her know.  There is always that part of me that never wants to say anything because then I may end up with more scans or tests.  What if a scan reveals  something serious like the cancer has returned in my brain?!   Do I really want to know that? That may seem quite extreme to some of you but that is my reality.  It can happen.  I can’t just be clumsy, off my game or have headaches without the fear of recurrence setting in.  Then there is my intellectual side that reminds me that I have to be an advocate for my own health and my doctor only scans on symptoms.  If I don’t say anything, how will she know what is going on.  So, I put it down on the check-list of symptoms.  Of course she asked me about it.  I guess she actually reads that list.  This is a two page check list of symptoms that all patients fill out before the appointment.  98% of my answers were no!  She didn’t seem overly concerned about the dizziness but she did suggest an MRI of my brain just to see what is going on.   I had a CT brain scan this past summer but an MRI is a better scan.  Now that I do not have metal inside me, it is an option.  No radiation involved in an MRI but it is nerve racking non the less.  I managed to talk my way out of it this time and promised if it gets worse, I will call her for the MRI script.  If no changes or it lessons, I will not have to see her until April again for another routine follow up.  We can revisit it then.  Her thoughts on the dizziness was more to due with residual damage from the chemotherapy drug.  Specifically the Taxol.  She mentioned neuropathy as a possible cause and that it could affect the brain.  I had and still have obvious signs of neuropathy in my feet but never really thought about it in my brain.  G was along for this follow up and he asked her if this would get better with time? Her response was- sometimes yes but most of the time if it presents itself, it is a long term side effect.  We were both unimpressed with that answer.  I guess this is what they mean when they say "chemo, the gift that keeps on giving".  Her suggestion was to be careful with running, biking, climbing ladders or anything that I could lose my balance.  Well that is going to be difficult.  I am hoping that the dizziness just goes away. 

Speaking of balance, I am excited to report that I am continuing on with my Pilates certification and had another intense workshop last weekend.  It was so much material and a very advanced class but it felt great to challenge myself again both mentally and physically.  I can’t believe how much of my core strength I have lost in 2 months!  

I do not know who really reads my blog unless they comment on it but every once and a while I get a gentle nudge from a reader or friend who asks why I have not written in a while.  Thank you all for your concerns.   I am getting back on track; back on my bike; back to my daily routine and in turn getting back to feeling more like myself- whatever that is these days. 

Back in the woods. 

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. 


Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the Horizon.

In an attempt to try and get myself out of my latest funk, I have decided to start planning my 2012 race season.  I am trying to put the focus on something ‘positive’ (there is that word again) and setting my fitness goals.

The upcoming season looks like it is going to start early.  The local H2H series has changed things around a bit.  Our club race, The Chainstretcher, is now the first race of the year when it is usually one of the last races of the year- this should be interesting.  I would have raced it early or late season- it is one my favorite places to ride and it holds a special place in my heart.  I am  not sure if I will be racing cat 1 or 2.  I will have to wait and see as to how my fitness builds this winter.  I may start out in cat 2 just to get my feet wet- in many ways I feel like I am starting over.
Only a week after is Single Speed A Palooza!  I love this race.  The first year I raced this was the first annual and the spring that I had met G.  I did not have a single speed bike  yet and he lent me one of his so I could  race.  I knew I had a good one even way back then-  he hardly knew me and he let me race his bike.   
Anyway, back to the race schedule.  I may or may not race the Bearscat 50 again this season.  I will be racing the Dark Horse 40 as it is the 10th annual and it should not be missed.  Another goal for this season is one I had before my diagnosis- to complete a 100 mile race.  There are two that I am considering but I need to think about which is going to work out best.  Those races are Wilderness 101 and the Shenandoah 100. 

So those are the broad brush strokes for the season as I am undecided on all the races I will be racing in 2012, but what I do know is I have all the hopes to have a strong season ahead.  I have no reason to think that I cannot come back strong and get my speed back. 

So, where am I at with my most recent setbacks, recovery and mood?  I don’t even want to write it but it seems like I am back on track.  Dr DP gave me the go ahead to go hog wild with cardio, just no bouncing or lifting.  That comes  next week.  This was/is interpreted as I get to ride my bike on the road.

I was thrilled with this.  I was feeling better and the weather was supposed to be fabulous.  G and I decided to rest up Friday night and lay low. Shortly after dinner I was not feeling so well.  I was nauseated and could not figure out why.  The only thing I could think was I took my antibiotics right after dinner and my thought was that maybe it didn’t mix well.  Sure didn’t- I was sick most of the night throwing up.  Really?! 

I felt much better in the morning and there was no way that I was going to miss my chance to ride.  G helped me get my ‘mango ride’ all set up for my ride on the North County Trail.  This is the bike that has been with me the longest.  It is my forever faithful and I thought it fitting to take her out first.  I figured it best to take the mountain bike since I would not  ‘bounce’ and I could still get my pedal in without having the discomfort of reaching for the lower bars and brakes on my road bike.  It was a great plan and I was able to enjoy back to back days of riding this past weekend.   I felt even better the second day besides being over dressed for the warm weather.  It was 65 degrees and sunny- what a huge gift in November!  I pedaled steady and my peck muscles felt less stressed the second day.  It didn’t feel horrible on Saturday but I could tell the muscle had been cut and they were still healing- surgery was harder than I had thought it would be. 

I figured this past weekend was a good start to get reacquainted with my bike.   If I have no more snafus then I will start my real training again in January.  This year will be so much different than the last.  I am so excited to see where this season will take me.

Geared up for the first ride in over 5 weeks.  Wish I took more pictures but I was focused on riding. 
Thank you to those that checked in on me since my last post and for all of you that keep reading. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

I feel like I am pedaling backwards.

The past 5 weeks has been full of intense emotions for me.  Exercise is as essential to my life as air and water.  It is what keeps me moving forward.  It keeps my body and my mind ‘right sized’.   The lack of exercise has been a struggle this go around. 

I had written a post last week but obviously I never posted it.   I was going to update everyone on how well I was doing- because I was.  How excited I was to be cleared to ride on the road- baby steps.  How I was so thrilled to be going to my Pilates instructor training class all weekend.  Well, that all got derailed last Friday and quickly my post became outdated and my spirits took a dive.

I was feeling off last week.  G had been sick so there was a good chance I was fighting something off.  On Thursday afternoon, I had noticed my right breast had red blotchiness on it.  Hmmm, what is this all about?  It was not my radiated side so I was even more puzzled.  I knew I had to follow the protocol.  Take my temperature, keep an eye on it and call the doctor in the morning if it has not cleared up.  Well by the time I got to the doctor on Friday afternoon, I had a low grade fever and felt pretty much like junk.  The blotchiness has spread and DrDP was unimpressed but not panicked- thank goodness.  Part of the anxiety of all of this is the unknown.  What is normal and what is something to worry about?  She had me get blood work done to determine if I had an infection in my blood.  The results were normal.  In fact my white blood cells were the best they have been in a while!  She offered to put me in the hospital for IV antibiotics but that would mean I would be there all weekend through Monday.  I opted for option 2- head home with oral antibiotics and the understanding that if I got worse or there was no improvement come Monday morning, I was going into the hospital.

The weekend was pretty uneventful as I had to cancel a lot of plans.  I felt defeated.   I should have been at my Pilates training class all weekend.  This is something I have been so excited to do and is part of my attempt to start my ‘new’ life.   How was I ever going to make this class up?  Disappointment seems to be running ramped in my life.  I would really like to see some things change for the better.   I have learned a lot throughout this experience and one thing for sure is, I will never take for granted a healthy day and a day free of doctor appointments.

I know what you are thinking.  “Stay positive, be grateful for what you have” Positivity is easy to say when you are on the other side of it and frankly, it doesn’t help to hear that.  I have so many things to be grateful for and I am good with that.  But honestly, I am over it.  I am over feeling like crap and waiting until the next time I can go out and feel good on my bike or a hike or just be myself again.
In this land I call the Cancer Vortex- I have met so many amazing women in all shapes and sizes.  Some have been through similar experiences or worse, some are stronger than me, some are suffering horribly, some are even better off than me.   I have started to reach out more to help others and in turn it is helping me.  I will continue to put one foot in front of the other to try to get my spirits back up again.  In the meantime, if you think of it, give me a holler!  It would be great to hear from some of you. 

So far I have managed to keep myself out of the hospital.  I will be heading north to Maine for the Thanksgiving weekend.   I will be visiting some friends and family which should make for many smiles.  I am praying that I stay healthy between now and then and that I remain healthy from this point forward.  I really need to put this latest surgery behind me and get on to some serious or not so serious living! 

Thank you for reading and if I don't get a chance to post before hand-  have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!  


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sometimes, I am Wonder Woman!

I went in for surgery with the hopes of having a sense of closure to this whole process. Instead it was as if I had stepped right back into the throes of some old “cancer vortex” emotions.  This was not how I thought I would feel.
I woke up from surgery,  feeling groggy and sore, which I had expected.  As far as I could tell at that time- surgery went as planned.  My port was gone and so were the expanders.  DrDP said that all went well-phew! The radiated side was her biggest challenge as she had predicted.  The radiation caused a lot of damage to that area but she worked her magic.  She was able to get the implant into the ‘pocket’ and move my right breast pocket over to even things out.  She thinks we can both be very happy with the outcome.  Needless to say, I have more bruising on the radiated side than my prophylactic side.   I got a quick peek in the hospital before I was discharged.  DrDP wanted to see how things looked before she sent me home.  She wanted to check the incisions first , so she undid my surgical bra.  I was so nervous to look down.  When I did, I couldn’t help but start to cry.  Even with all the swelling, they looked more real than I thought they would.  My cleavage was back- well, sort of and they fell a lot more natural than the expanders.  Of course I am still without nipples- reconstruction is a long process.
G took me home to rest which is exactly what I did for the next few days.  I was a lot sorer than I had thought. I forgot how surgery messes with your whole body including your mind.  I had hopes for the weekend of going for a nice Fall drive with G and maybe the movies. But when the weekend rolled around,  I didn’t want to do any of it.  I was quickly slipping into a bit of a depression.  It took me a day or two to realize it but it became clear on Monday when I was home alone. 

I was able to shower after 48 hours but waited an extra day.   Mostly because I was too tired and dizzy from the pain medicine, which then triggered my vertigo.  I think I was also not really ready to see my new boobs in the mirror.  Body image has always played a large part in the process.  Up until now, it has all been temporary so I was not as attached to the outcome.  This time, this is it.  It is what I got. 

All the feelings started to come back.  It is as if this surgery stirred up dormant emotions of isolation, fear and sadness.  I was home alone a lot over that first week so that did not help.  I couldn’t drive yet and was instructed not to walk anywhere either.  Because I work from home, I always try to get out and about during the day so I have some sort of social interaction with the outside world.
The fear - did I make the right decision to have reconstruction?  Had I opted out, I would have nothing to recover from.  Will I heal well and will the implant settle in comfortably or will I need more surgery? 

The sadness crept back.  Being cooped up at home by myself just reminded me of all I had been through.  It may be the end of this chapter but for those that have not been following along closely; this has really been hard for me and the ones closest to me.  G has been there by my side every step and we are both exhausted.  “You are in the home stretch” they tell me.   Am I?

I slowly started to come around.  I am beginning to get use to the new view and feel of my new body.  The swelling has come down – for the most part and my vertigo has subsided. My mind is getting clearer every day. 

I had my one week post surgical follow up with DrDP and she was pleased with how well I was healing.  I was relieved to hear this and even more relieved that I do not have to wear that surgical bra anymore!  I will see her again in two weeks.  We will hopefully be discussing my future exercise plans.  In the meantime, light walking is it.  Very light walking.

Over the weekend, G and I went to our friends Halloween party.  It was a last minute decision. If you recall, I have a thing for my super hero alter ego, Wonder Woman.  I already had the Wonder Woman costume.  And when I went costume shopping I could not find anything new that was comfortable, so Wonder Woman it was.  I had some pain that night but it was worth it being out with some friends and enjoying myself.  I actually wore one of my wigs from treatment when I had no hair- I never wore out in public when I was bald.  Some party goers were shocked when I told them it was a wig.  It’s funny to me how confident I was wearing that wig that night when I actually had hair underneath. 

So glad there was a good excuse to put on the costume.  
It is amazing how different I feel after only 10 days post surgery.  I am sure now that I am able to get out more regularly, I will just feel better every day and as soon as I am able to have some sort of exercise – I’ll be back to my old self in no time.
Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bring 'em on!

I am so excited to report that I have had an awesome week of riding!  The weather has been cooperating nicely so the trails have been perfect!  I have been feeling stronger, faster and more confident every day.  This is all great news BUT as you know, I am having my exchange surgery tomorrow and have no idea how long it will take me to get back to this point again.  I do know that if I can get it back once - I can do it again.  It doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Today was my third solo ride in a row.  As far as I could tell, I was the only person at Graham Hills this morning.  I pulled into the parking lot and it was empty. No bikers, no hikers, no dog walkers.  It was just me and the woods.  As usual I saw a few dozen chipmunks and squirrels that tried to play chicken with my front wheel and I startled a couple deer coming through the meadow.  I was in my groove and feeling actual speed in my legs for the first time in a while.  Just when I started to feel a sense of panic about my surgery taking that away, there it was.  The eagle (or hawk, not sure) swooped down over the trail in front of me and perched on a tree and watched me as I pedaled by.  This is the same bird that I have seen in Graham on other solo occasions.  It is always in the morning and once I even saw it swoop down and grab a huge squirrel off the trail in front of me and fly away with it!  Every time I see this bird, it is at a moment when I could use the reminder to reconnect with my spirituality.  When I need to be enjoying the moment and not worrying about what is ahead.  I have always viewed the woods as my grounding place and like the other mornings, this brought me the peace I needed today. 

Bring on my new boobs!!! 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I have been very anxious about my upcoming surgery.  I have been mostly nervous worrying about all the things that could go wrong:  I have to stop doing that to myself-it can’t be good for my health.
 I met with my plastic surgeon last week and I am really glad I did.  I needed to hear from her again what was going to take place during the surgery and what to expect after.  I needed to hear the confidence in her voice when she told me she has all the reasons to believe that my surgery will go well and that I will be more than happy with the results.  Knowing she cannot really ‘guarantee’ this outcome, I still left her office with a huge sense of relief.  And dare I say excitement. 
With roughly a week until my surgery and my anxiety sort of under control, I have been getting into preparation mode.  While my recovery is expected to be easier than the first surgery, I am still going to be down for a period of time.  It really hit me that I will have at least two weeks of doing a whole lot of nothing.  I can hopefully get back to work by the following Monday but I am also on full restriction- No exercise and no lifting of anything weighing more than a gallon of milk.  I remember back to my first surgery and how some of the daily activities were so difficult or just were impossible after surgery.  Cooking, laundry, picking up around the house- all of this will become a challenge again or just not get done. Obviously, there will be no biking of any kind for at least a month.  I will just have to find something else to do with my time…..

Besides a few pre- surgical doctor appointments, I have been going about my business- it has been a pretty regular routine for me.  I have been working a ton and trying to get in as much riding as possible.  It has been so incredibly rainy this season,  so getting out in the woods has been spotty at best.   I cannot remember a time when the woods were so saturated.  I have managed though and even have hit the road a bit which can be a great time with the right people. 

Taking a break after a brutal climb.
What was to be a mellow 30-40 mile ride turned into a near 60 miles with many hills and each hill seemed to be harder than the next. 

While the weather looks near perfect for the week ahead, fall has arrived.  I decided this was the right time to swap out my summer wardrobe.  As I pulled out the first bin under the bed, I opened it up and there it was- my bra collection!  It might as well have jumped out and grabbed me like the boogie man.  Why have I put all my bras away?  Simply, they do not fit over my tissue expanders and frankly they are uncomfortable and unnecessary.  These rocks do not move, even when I mountain bike!  The not so simple explanation is I got sick of opening my top draw and seeing them.  It was a memory that I was not ready to look at yet.  Some things still sting.  So while I may be getting my new ‘boobs’ in a week, they are not my old ones.  Those were pretty fabulous if I can say so myself. 
Bras will return in my future but chances are I will be shopping for some new ones.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

La buona vita- The good life!

After my final Herceptin treatment, it was as if the final buzzer went off and things started to move really quickly.  I was extremely busy with work and was gearing up for our big vacation.  The timing was perfect and I could not be more grateful to be given the opportunity to travel with G and his family to Italy.  There was something about the feeling of really disconnecting from my everyday routine –including the bike, that let me feel free of so many of the worries I have been holding so tightly to.  We attempted to adopt a new lifestyle for the next 10 days.  We were in a house in a small village in Pulgia down in the “heel of the boot” on the Adriatic. The only thing keeping me from really living like the Italians was the fact that I did not speak Italian.  We tried to blend in the best we could and soak up as much of the new lifestyle as possible.  We did not bring bikes for a couple reasons; the hassle and the fact that we did not want to get them stolen.  This area is home of the “gipsy”- a fancy word for thief!  We took hikes, sightseeing drives, and just relaxed and swam. We had very limited internet and no phone service.  It has been a long time since I have detached from the cyber world and from the cancer vortex- It felt amazing!   I did not want to leave that mind set.

Traveling always reminds me of how lucky I am to live where I do and to have the life that I have.  Italia was beautiful, but it is certainly not home. 

Here are some of the highlights of our trip.

Great hike G and I took- View up the coast north of Otranto. 

We hiked the edge of these cliffs and the views were amazing!  

Here we are- it was so hot that day.  It was actually 100* almost every day!
Swimming holes like this one were always a great find.  
Dinners at home were always best. 

The outdoor grill.
The scene of many great meals and good company.
Driving south to the heel of the boot.  Fun drive! 

Down the cliffs in a small village- Castro.
Many smiles during our sightseeing adventures.

Delicious Cappuccinos
Watching the local activity 
G getting a little closer to see what the fisherman were up to.
So many cafes on the water
The good life...for sure.  Siesta time in Gallipoli, Italy.

As much as I would have liked to stay out of the cancer vortex, I still returned from vacation with medical junk to take care of.  It seems as though it never really ends but looking back to a year ago- I have made tremendous progress.

I have scheduled my next phase of my breast reconstruction process for October 13.  This is what is called the exchange surgery.  My plastic surgeon will be removing these horribly uncomfortable tissue expanders and replacing them with softer, squishier silicone implants.  I am not looking forward to surgery but I am looking forward to my new boobs!  Since I will be put under anesthesia for this surgery, I am also having my breast surgeon remove my medi-port at the same time.  This is the devise that I have been getting all my medicines infused through and blood drawn.  Since treatment is over and I should only need blood drawn roughly two times a year, I no longer have any use for it today, and nor in the future. If all goes well, this should be the last of the major surgeries until I decide to move forward with nipple reconstruction and/or tattooing. Yes, they will actually reconstruct nipples and use tattooing for the coloring.  I have not decided on that yet. I am also considering just 3-D tattooing.  First things first.

From what I have heard, this upcoming surgery is not as invasive as the first surgery and while my actual recovery time should be a lot shorter, my times off the bike will be about the same.  6 weeks.  I could keep pedaling through October and wait to have surgery in the winter months but honestly, I really want to put this behind me.  It has been way too long with these ‘rocks’ in my body and it has been too long since I have been able to sleep on my stomach.  Sleeping on my side is not even that easy or very comfortable. 

Having the surgery in October will also give me enough time to recover, enjoy the holidays and start training for the 2012 racing season.  This year was not my year to race.  I wanted to feel good but I did not recover from training rides or racing very easily.  I sort of lost the desire to race the rest of this season.   My body took a huge beating over the past 18 months and it was just too much to keep up my fitness to a racing level. I did my two big races this season and I am okay with that.  It was my way of saying a big Fuck You to cancer and I did just that. Now I just hope I stay healthy so I can attempt to have a good season next year. 



Thursday, August 18, 2011

With time...

Today, I was given my final Herceptin infusion.  With time, I am hoping this image will be a very distant memory. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I thought I would start off with getting my medical update out of the way.  I received my endometrial biopsy results back and the doctor said results were “normal”.  Ahh, yes-  I can breathe…. I was trying really hard not to think about it and I knew in my heart my luck could not be that bad.  (I do say that with a bit of caution).  My doctors will continue to make me do follow-up ultra sounds but “normal” was music to my ears this week. 
So, life carries on as “normal” or at least my new version of normal.  This is a complicated word for me and there is no simple definition for someone young who has had cancer or lives with a chronic disease.  I am still trying to figure out what is my “normal” supposed to really feel like.  I always hear others in similar situations use the phrase, “new normal”- but I struggle with that.  Things are not the way they used to be before treatment that is for sure.  Do I want that old me back?  You bet I do- without the cancer of course.

Mind and Body. 
Is my body normal?  Not even close.  I have a scar under my left armpit and an indent from where they took a chunk of lymph nodes out.  18 to be exact and while the scar appears to be getting better the indent it left behind is so big that I can not shave properly.   Trivial, yes- but certainly not normal.  I still have cording under my left arm that some days forces pain down my arm to my wrist.  If it is really bad, it shoots across my chest taking my breath away in pain.  It is better than it was, but the pain is still  there.  I am hoping after my exchange surgery, it helps relieve some of the extra stress there.  I have X ‘s where my nipples used to be.   I will always have fake boobs.   While that may be fine for some women, I feel justified to say that it is much different than making the choice to have breast augmentation.  It is not the same thing by a long shot.  My body is fighting back every day to filter out the treatments and the after effects of the past year.  It wants to feel strong again; I want to feel strong again. But sometimes the odds are against me and I have to give in and rest.  I guess there are lots of people that can complain about aches and pains in their knees, ankles and arms but mine are all reminders of having had cancer.   A little different than the aches of the aging process, because it reminds me that it was trying to kill me.

Is my mind normal?  Not sure really.   It is still a bit foggy from all the drugs and I think the Tamoxifen is not helping that part of the side-effect recovery either. 

Worry- I have a lot of that and it hits me randomly throughout the day.  Sometimes it scares me enough  to wake me up in the middle of the night.   I have to assume that most women my age are not worried about the same things as I am.   I would love to wake up in the morning and go about my day without the fear of a recurrence ever crossing my mind- it does.  Or question if I made the right treatment choices- this is a hard one for me.   I get envious, or dare I say jealous, of what others appear to have that I want: Marriage, children, or the overall feeling of immortality that I use to have.   I want to complain about the little things again.    

“Didn’t this experience make you feel grateful?” I have had people ask me that among other loaded questions.  I guess I would rather have people ask me questions than ignore the subject with me completely.   I was pretty well in touch with my sense of gratitude before my diagnosis so the answer is NO, Cancer didn’t really make me more grateful, but I do look at things and people a lot differently. 
My body is for sure not a normal 37 year old body.  But yet, I am still better physically fit then some that have not been through major cancer treatment.  My mind does not think like a normal 37 year old woman.  My relationships are no longer the same.  Some have strengthened and some have weakened almost to a failing point.  I have really learned to know who I can count on and who is just outright unreliable.  This path has introduced me to amazing new people that have offered me so much generous support in ways I never imagined- life changing support.  I have seen and felt what true love is really like.  So, yes...I have many things to be grateful for.  

In April of 2010, my world got hijacked and it will never be “normal’.  Most of this I have learned to accept but acceptance doesn’t mean I have to like it!  

For those that know me best, I am not looking for pity, but rather understanding.   I write this not to make it seem like I am bitter or angry, but to let people know that I am still here just trying to work this all out-it is my great  human struggle to make sense of all of this.   I may appear back to “normal’ in your eyes, but from this view, I will never really be “normal”.  

Thank you for reading. 

Photo courtesy of ~Aria~ Flickr Photostream.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Race report and Timelines.

G and I woke up last Saturday morning and headed out for our morning pedal.  Nothing too intense- just a short spin up the OCA to get our legs to open up a bit and make sure the bikes were race ready.  I was careful to not overdo it the week prior.  I just do not have the same recovery time as I used to and have not even figured out what is really too much.  

Old Croton Aqueduct -OCA

True to form, my Herceptin treatment made my knees and ankles achy and I just felt sluggish.  I am sort of getting used to it but it doesn’t make it any easier.  I cannot wait until my last one on the 18th!  In the meantime, I just hoped that the next morning, I would feel better.  

Taking a rest at the framers market on our way home.
Some of our yummy treats for the house.
Apricots were off the hook!

Racing not only involves a lot of physical preparation but it takes a lot of time and energy to make sure all the bikes, gear and nutrition are all in order.  This has to be done the day/night prior since we would be up at 5:30 Sunday morning.  I usually like to also plan my dinner well so I eat the right things and early enough.  I don't want to eat too late or I feel too full the next morning to eat my breakfast.  

The alarm went off Sunday morning and G and I both stood around the coffee machine.  “I don’t miss this part of racing” he says.  I grumbled in agreement as I patiently waited for my morning brew and assessed how I was feeling.    In the past years, on race day mornings, I would wake up all excited and do a little chant/clapping thing saying “It’s race day, race day, race day”!   Well, that did not happen this Sunday morning.  In fact, I really was wondering if I was going to make it to the start line let alone the finish line. 

Gear and bikes were loaded in the car and we were ready to head north.  We made great time, rolled into the lot and I realized at that moment-it’s on.  It is officially race day.   As always, it is great to see the familiar faces.  The Dark Horse promoters always put on a top notch event and draw a packed house.  It helped to feed my energy and get my butt in gear.  We signed in, kitted up and decided to warm up a bit.  The sun was already blazing.  It was going to be a hot one!  

The race started off with a 3 mile fire road to break up the field a bit.  They started the women single speeders with the men single speeders but I quickly fell to the back of the pack.  I settled into my spin and just tried to get my body into a groove.  My knees hurt and legs were a bit heavy but overall I felt decent going into the first single track.  It wasn’t until the second half of the first lap that I started to really question my choice of racing my single speed for 40 miles.  It was at mile 14-17 where most of the punchy climbs were and my legs were just not opening up.  I got to the feed zone after the first lap and took a few minutes to regroup.  I did not stop at any of the other water stations so felt I needed to take an extra minute.  I almost stopped too long because my mind started questioning my body and I was pretty close to calling it.  I scanned the sidelines and there were racers that had already given up and they were not going back out.   I started to get myself set to go and I heard a voice yell out “Get going Reba”. It was my friend Jocelyn.  She was not able to race this day due to her own medical issues.  I owed it to both of us to get back out there so off I went.   

That second half was a huge struggle for me.  I did seem to find a lot of strength in the fact that last year, I was on the couch sick as a dog from my chemo treatment and I could not even make it up there as a spectator.  I started to really feel the heat and my left arm started hurting something awful.  By mile 30, my right foot started up with the neuropathy side effects and my hands went numb.  It was a real push to get myself to that finish line but I did it.  It was no record time for me but it was not my worst performance either!

I am grateful that I was able to race and I always have a great time with the whole scene.  But, I think I will be taking the rest of the season off of racing and will just try and enjoy riding my bike...maybe I'll do one more.   

Monday afternoon was my endometrial biopsy.  I was still exhausted from the race and my body was hurting all over.  I was ill prepared for this procedure.  I was told it may be uncomfortable and pinch a bit.  Really? Okay, I can handle that.  Well, let me tell you.  It was outright painful and caught me way off guard.  Once the doctor was finished, I had some cramping and bleeding for a few hours but nothing too crazy. It was just that 10 minutes of hell that I will remember for a long time so I hope I never have to do that again.  Results may be a week or two but I am really not worrying about it.    

So, this has been a long week but the good news is, G and I are heading up to Maine for the weekend.  Cooler temperatures, casual bike rides and good eats!  Last time we went up there, I couldn’t do as much because I was still recovering from my surgery.  I have to look back at these timelines so that I can remember how far I have really come. 

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Have I lost my edge?

I am starting to believe that I might just like training more than I like racing or maybe I just enjoy riding my bike without all the pressure of a good performance?  I am sure it is a combination of all of the above but something feels different for me this year.  I am having a hard time getting in the ‘game’.  I know a lot of you are thinking “give yourself a break considering all that you have been through this past year”.  I hear that and I understand that but have I lost my edge?  Will it come back?  I keep wondering when I’ll get my speed back and when will I feel like I can get out in front again.  

I have not done any races since the Bearscat50 and maybe that was a mistake.  Hindsight, I probably could have used the extra intensity that racing gives me.  But after some thought, I decided I didn’t want to forfeit my Saturday rides to race on Sundays.   It seemed more important to me to just ride.  This past Sunday, G and I headed up to Stewart to pre-ride the Darkhorse 40 race course.  We knew it would be marked, so we decided to invite our good friends along.  They had never ridden there and since the course was marked, we would not get us all lost. They do not race but love riding new trails.  They are also a lot of fun to be with.  While riding, Kim and I had a conversation about how great it is to just be out riding and how the racing will come back.  Her conclusion was - This year is just all about enjoying the ride and next year will be my season to go big again.   She is probably right about that.  I am truly still recovering from the years events.  I wish the only thing that I had to do these days was focus on my fitness but the reality is, I am still trying to pick up the other pieces of my life that got shattered because of cancer. 

The Darkhorse 40 is this Sunday.  As I mentioned, I will be racing it on my single speed.  I have been riding the SS almost exclusively since it was built up last month.  It is probably the most comfortable fitting bike that I have for this type of race course.  But feel free to ask me again at the end of a 40 mile race…..I know that I am ready for the distance of the race but it is a much faster course then the Bearscat50 was.  It it is all going to depend on how I feel that morning.  I have to get my Herceptin treatment this Thursday so there is just no telling how the days following will go.  

So it is off to the races we go- Wish me luck!