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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Searching for Balance.

Cancer treatments were and continue to be necessary for me to try and ensure a long and healthy life for myself- hopefully cancer free.  Unfortunately, during this process, I lost a lot of time being sick and going to and from doctor appointments or treatments. Money was lost from a lack of ability to work and my body....My body took a few blows.  It is now time to try and get back what I have lost over the last 10 months.  I feel like I have one foot outside of the Cancer Vortex and  I am trying to find my balance again.  I will try to get back what I can but the reality is, some things are lost for good.

Back in April when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was only 5 pounds away from my personal weight loss goal for the 2010 racing season.  I was in "race ready" shape.  One of the  things I kept reading about was how most women gain 10-30 pounds during their breast cancer treatments. It seemed absurd to me at the time as I always thought that people lost weight during chemotherapy.  Wrong!  With all the steroids they pump into you before and during each treatment, weight control was a never ending battle.  I had trouble eating my normal diet so I didn't always opt for the lowest calorie food.  Plus the lack of exercise- even though I still exercised, it was nothing like I was used to and it got harder toward the end of treatment.  Especially since the holidays and bad weather all came at once.  I actually did really well for a while.  But, as determined as I was to not to be part of this statistic, it was a rough 10 months.  I can't say that I have gained 30 or even 20 pounds but I am probably pushing a 10-15 pound weight gain.  So, I am back to where I was about a year ago with  a few more obstacles in my way, but I have a plan.  

While I know I gained the weight, I also know the best way for me to lose it again is race training.  I have been so focused on getting through my big treatments that I had not really put much thought into the upcoming bike racing season.  I didn't want to have too many expectations for myself.  About a month ago, I came across a post on a local bike forum- the Bearscat50.  Interesting....This was a race that I have never done before.  Actually, nobody has done this race as it is the first season it's being held.  It is a 50 mile cross country mountain bike race and on some of the best single track around.  Some might think that I am a bit crazy for even considering this race but I thought about it, discussed it with all my doctors and said, I can do this!  It is scheduled for June 5, 2011 so I have 4 months to get my butt back into shape. G has also registered for this race so we are both looking forward to training together again.

Last Wednesday, I got my stitches out of my stomach and my "all clear" pathology report from the dermatologist.   We didn't think it would be anything, but it is still good to hear.  I am not so pleased with the huge scar that she left but I guess I can't do much about that now.  Most important, it is not cancer and I'm free to go about my regular exercise. 

The woods are buried with snow so we started off our training this past weekend with over 6 hours of snowshoeing.  The snow was so deep especially where we went on Sunday.  Besides the deer tracks, there were no other tracks to be found.  My legs are exhausted but it feels awesome.  We are off to a good start!

Spring is a long ways away.  G- wait up!
So untouched and so peaceful. 

The deer seem to be making do with all the snow...many deer beds to be found.

I will attempt to have a more "normal" week ahead.  Work has been busy and it feels so good to be back full time.  I do have to start physical therapy again for the cording in my arm and some new and horrible chest pains in my left tissue expander.  The radiation caused and is causing some changes so my plastic surgeon suggested I give some P/T another try.  One of the few things that worry me about this big bike race is the physical limitations of my left arm and the pain in my tissue expanders.  The expanders will remain inside me for at least another 6 months.  If I have never mentioned it before, these things are awfully uncomfortable. 

Time will tell and in the meantime, I will train as if I will race.

Have a great week everyone!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Minor Setbacks and Exciting Visitors.

We are only two weeks into the new year and I am reminded that life happens on life's terms.  I have a new minor setback.  Very minor but none the less, a setback for me.  
About 3 years ago I discovered a mole on my stomach.  It was a new mole, one I had never seen before. It started off fairly small but it continued to grow.  I had kept an eye on it and thought it was something I would eventually have checked out.  When I had my initial breast exam last March, the doctor suggested that after I  see a breast surgeon,  I should go to a dermatologist.  That was probably the smartest thing that doctor said to me the entire visit.  Just for the record, this was the doctor from the clinic not any of my current doctors.  In fact, she is the one that when I asked for a script for a mammogram she said to me " Oh they won't do a mammogram on you, your too young for breast cancer".  Right, so like I was saying- not very helpful.  Since things have calmed down a bit,  I showed this mole to my oncologist who suggested I have their dermatologist take a look.  I thought it was probably a good idea, so I agreed.  I went to the dermatologist who biopsied the mole right then and there.  I figure it was out now and it will be all fine...Wrong!  I received a phone call from my oncologist DrW. right before Christmas.  She didn't want me to panic when the dermatology office called.  "It is not cancer and it has nothing to do with your breast cancer, but it must come out surgically"  It was a precancerous mole that "could" turn into melanoma.  I was told by the surgeon that there was no real rush so as soon as I was feeling up to it, we would get the procedure done.  She then started to explain that the healing time would be two week with 2 layers of stitches and I would not be able to exercise during that time.  That was all I heard from that point forward.  More restrictions, just when I'm starting to feel good and getting back on a routine.  As much as the idea of not being able to exercise for two weeks made me angry and frustrated ( especially after all I have been through this past year) I would just have to get it over with.  The longer I wait, the worse the timing would get.   I know it is not cancer so I'm not worried about that.  It is just another minor setback.  

I chose January 12 at 8:00 am  for a couple reasons.  It was not too close to my last radiation treatment and most importantly it would allow me to heal up and be ready to start my race training by February 1. Of course we were expecting another huge snow storm the day of my procedure but since it was in the city, they were not going to cancel it.  It would be up to me to cancel if I felt I could not make it in. As hard as I thought it through, I knew that I had to get this over with.  I woke up at 6 am and sure enough, there was a ton of snow.  G and I walked through at least a foot of snow to the train and made it to my appointment.  Thank you G, as always for your support.  The surgeon ended up cutting a 4.5 cm long piece of tissue out of my stomach!  It was a bit larger than I had expected and since it is on my upper abdomen, it's quite  uncomfortable.  Nothing compared to my big surgery but this is so annoying! 

On another note, here are some random and exciting updates:

I am happy to say that last week was my official first full week of work since April.  It felt awesome!  Come Friday I was tuckered out but still able to make a delicious dinner for G and I to kick off the weekend.

Roasted chicken and red potatoes with sauteed brussel sprouts

Since this season seems to be bringing lots of snow, we needed to find a way to enjoy it and get in some cross training.  G purchased his own pair of snowshoes and I already had a pair from my years of living in Colorado.  Last weekend we received some fresh snow so were able to explore a bit in the woods.  The trails are too snow covered to ride and the streets are not much better.

After a few hours of work on Saturday, we headed out for what seemed like more of a hike then a snowshoe since we didn't get as much snow as we thought.  As always, we managed to have a good time out there regardless. 

G lovin the snow! 
There was still some fresh snow- My tracks.
We also ran into some of our mountain bike friends who were out riding the ski bikes that my friend K built.  While I was more of a spectator, G could not resist. 

Apparently it handles really well.  I will have to try it another day.
Sunday we headed further up north to find more snow and we were successful.

We also met up with some good friends.

I would say he loves his new snowshoes?!
Even Olga and Jack had a great day in the woods. 
While there is a ton of new snow this past week, there won't be any snowshoeing in my near future.   BUT...As some of you know, ,my sister had her baby back in November and I've still yet to meet him.  She decided that since she was not working, she would come visit me and bring my nephew Jesse.  My birthday is on Monday so she will be here today, with Jesse to help celebrate my  birthday!  I am so excited to meet my nephew and see my sister but not so excited for my 37th birthday-yikes! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No more tanning...unless I'm at the beach!

As planned, Monday was my final radiation treatment.  It is almost too difficult to describe the feeling that day.   It was the last time I would climb up on that cold metal table.  My radiation therapists T and R were both there and sharing in my glory.  It always takes a minute or three for them to get me all lined up on the table so that I am properly aligned with the machine.  R was telling me about her holiday weekend and T was getting me all dialed in.  Then I heard the same line that I have heard for 33 days..."All set, we will be right back".  I usually just say OK but this time, I yelled out "Hey T- make this a good one!".  Right before the giant door closed me in I heard, "It will be the best one yet Rebecca".  I closed my eyes and waited the moment to hear the buzzer.  I started my mantra - a little prayer I came up with to ease the scary moments.  This was the last time I hope I ever hear that noise again.  The 20 seconds ended- this particular treatment only lasted that long.  Usually there were 4 of those.  The buzzer stopped and I felt it...The big smile across my face.  I wanted to jump up off that table with a giant Yahoo,  but I just kept it inside.  R and T walked back in the room to help me get off the table and they both gave me a big hug before sending me on my way.  It was bitter sweet to know I will not see those folks every day...But they understand that most patients never want to be back there again.  I plan to visit but not until my follow up with DrM.  That is not for six weeks!  According to DrM, my skin looks the best he has ever seen.  Scary thought considering I am pretty well fried and my underarm is starting to peel.  I will take his word for it and from what I have heard from others experiences, I am feeling pretty lucky. 

While I have a huge sense of relief to be finished with the major treatments, I have a little ways to go yet.  I must allow myself some time to heal from the radiation and continue to allow my body to flush out the remaining chemicals from my system.  I am gauging this by a few different things but one is by my finger nails.  One of the many side effects of chemotherapy was my nails all turned white from the nail bed up and became extremely brittle.  I was lucky they didn't fall off but  it was still so weird and pretty ugly.  They are almost all grown out now.  I have maybe another month to go.

With the new year beginning so well, I promised myself I would not look too deep into the belly of 2010.  However, while cleaning up my office desk yesterday, I came upon an envelope of photos that have been given to me over the year.  They are actual prints and I do not have the original digital so I decided to scan some of them into my computer.  Here is one that G and I both found pretty hard to look at.  It brought up a lot of emotion both individually ( I'm sure his experience and memories of this is different than mine) and together.  I almost can't look too closely at it but thought I would share it with all of you.  Some of you were there that night.  It was taken on May 25, 2010 - The night before my surgery. 

Heading home after an evening I will never forget. 

For now, I am trying to separate these two years but it is not as easy as just turning over the calender.  Where does 2010 end and where does 2011 really begin? I will just have to let time work that out.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family who have supported me over the last year and to my random blog readers out there....Let this year bring us all many wonderful things!