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

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!