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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Forward.

It is now officially spring on the calendar but it feels like it has been here for a while now. With all the warmer than usual temperatures in New York, it seems as though we skipped over winter this year! My daffodils are in full bloom and I caught a strong smell of lilacs on my road ride the other evening.

Shorts and short sleeves on the first day of spring. 

Notice all the hair sticking out of the helmet!  

The arrival of spring also means that the start of mountain bike race season is only weeks away for me. I am not sure I am actually ready for it-physically or mentally. I won’t really know until I race my first race. I do feel a lot stronger than I did last year at this time but that does not give me much to go on since this time last year I was only 6 months out of chemo, 2 months out of radiation treatments, just starting my 5 year sentence of Tamoxifen and getting Herceptin infusions every 3 weeks. Compared to all that, I am doing great!

Solo ride on the single speed. 

Actually, I am doing well according to my new primary doctor. I had a regular physical last week. This was the first overall physical I have had in years. It seems surprising since I have seen so many doctors but they are all specialists with their own focus- cancer and new boobs.  This was a new doctor for me but I really liked him.  He ordered a full blood panel to see how I was doing. I have gotten my share of blood drawn over the past two years but my oncologist was never looking at things like cholesterol or my thyroid. She is usually more interested in things like my tumor markers, liver panel and blood counts. According to this recent blood work, I am very healthy. Vitamin D is up quite a bit, cholesterol is “perfect” and my thyroid is normal…phew! The cancer treatments have been known to do wonders on the thyroid. I will have blood work done again next month but this will be at my 4 month oncology follow up. Unless there is something really wacky with my tumor markers, I have no reason to believe I won’t get the A-okay from my oncologist as well.

I have had 4 physical therapy appointments thus far and my new physical therapist J, is not messing around with these cords in my arm. She has actually found another one that is deep in my bicep and a few small ones that are splitting off at my elbow.

 “No wonder your wrist hurts” she said to me Monday as she was stretching and massaging the “mother cord”. (That is what she calls the new one she found) I am struggling a bit with how much it hurts during but mostly afterwards. I have to wrap my arm in ice packs when she is done with me.

It does seems to be paying off. At the end of our session yesterday, it actually felt like the tightness had given way in some areas. Not completely but I am still hopeful.

It seems that all the extra efforts - diet, biking and Pilates is starting to amount to some positive changes in my body. It has not been easy getting to this point but I am a true believer in - you have to do the work. The doctors can only help me to a certain level, then it is up to me. My body has done some healing naturally but I have really had to push myself to get back some sense of control again.

As I spring forward, I will try to keep up the work and hopefully stay on track.

Heading home before sunset. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Finding that smile.

This past weekend was filled with a lot of time on the bike.  While there were many wonderful moments I could share, this one stuck out most for me.

G took a photo of me riding in the woods on Saturday.  There it was "that smile" on my face. That smile that I have truly not seen since before my first surgery in May 2010.

Taken by my friend Kevin -2 weeks before my surgery.  

Just shy of two years later and the smile is back.  
You may have to make the photos larger to see that smile but I see it and best of all, I felt it!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Third time will hopefully be the charm.

I had my physical therapy evaluation yesterday and it went in a much different direction than I thought it would.  

If you recall, I have been in and out of physical therapy twice since my first surgery back in May 2010.  I had a lot of tightness in my skin around the mastectomy areas and I had been treated for Auxiliary Web Syndrome – more commonly known as cording.   Cording is thought to be hardening of the lymphatic fluid.  Mostly likely, in my case, it is from the trauma during my auxiliary lymph node dissection back when I had my mastectomy and the 33 radiation treatments I had.  The best way to imagine/picture this is an extremely tight rope that starts under my arm and goes down to my wrist.  My cording is pretty deep, but other people who suffer from this may have more visible signs since they are closer to the surface.  They also call it webbing because in some people it can look like a spider web from these “ropes”.  It usually limits ones range of motion and can cause massive pain. 

In my opinion, the cording really never went away.   I figured that if two rounds of P/T would not break this cord up than I will just have to deal with it.   I have been able to manage it with pretty well by stretching- that was up until recently.  The ‘scar tissue’ that I have been referring to lately is under my arm at the scar line where they took out a pocket of 18 lymph nodes.  The scar tissue has spread south down over my ribs and hardened.  That was the area of concern this past week.   I have been having sharp pains that start under my arm; go through my ribs and across my breast.  I also have shooting pains that go down to my elbow and continues down to my wrist.  Of course my surgeons all say that I do not have cording since I have such good range of motion.  The only reason I have any range of motion at all is from the constant stretching that I do on my own and with my Pilates instructor.   I always ask-  If I do not have cording, what the heck is it?  No one can answer me.
I met with the new therapist and during my physical evaluation she asked me a lot of questions about my medical history, treatments, my activity and what I like to do with my time.  She really checked in on my lifestyle which I appreciated.   As I explained where the pain was, she stretched my arm out and pushed on the scar area.  This is when I about jumped off the table!  Sorry about that.  You have a big cord- did you know that?  My reply: No kidding?!  I knew it!  I instantly felt a sense of validation.  As she moved further down my arm continuing to press and follow this cord she said: You have it all the way to your wrist.  There are 3 of them actually but one really big one that starts under your arm. 
So, there you have it.  The good news is she actually believes she can help me with this and for the first time, I feel hopeful about this problem.
We discussed this mass of scaring on my rib cage area near my breast-her prognosis was that she will try to work it out as long as I can stand it. She seems to think that the scar tissue has hardened and attached itself to my ribs.  It may have to be released surgically- I am not into that for a couple of reasons.  It is more surgery that increases my risk of lymphedema.  It may be too difficult to manual release that area but she did feel that we can release the arm pit scar and cording so it may help take some of the pain away.    
As part of my evaluation, she measured both arms to check for any sign of lymphedema swelling- all looks normal.  Of course my right arm is a bit larger than my left  but that is my dominant arm and I favor it for obvious reasons.  She did notice a bit of swelling in my rib cage area but she did not seem too concerned about it. 

This ‘new’ diagnosis of cording has landed me 2 hours of p/t a week for the next two weeks.  I was a bit surprised that she was going to work on me for 1 hour at a time but maybe that is what needs to happen to loosen up my arm.  I do not want to give up these extra hours in my week for more appointments but I will make room and remain hopeful that the pain will lessen.  And with any luck, it will go away. 
The weather forecast looks like it will be in the 60’s for the next ten days so I plan on starting off my weekend with some good long rides.  Of course I will follow it up with some stretching. 

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Press on!

Yesterdays ultra sound did not show any suspicious abnormalities.  According to my radiologist, ultra sounds are not really the best test for showing a recurrence but the next option would be an MRI and or a biopsy.  At this time my breast surgeon suggested we wait and see how the physical therapy works to break up this scar tissue.  I start tomorrow.  If it gets better, great.  We will wait and see if anything changes in the next 6 months.  I have my 4 month follow up with my medical oncologist in April so I am sure she will put her two cents in as well.  For now, I will press on!

Thank you again for all the good vibes- it helps!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Healthy Distractions.

This past weekend was filled with a lot of healthy distractions.

Saturday morning started off with a new juice recipe for me.

1 large handful of Romaine
1 large handful of Kale
1 large bunch of wheat grass ( was around a shot once juiced)
1 large cucumber
1 1/2 green apples
4 stalks of celery

It made about 32 oz of juice so I shared with G.  This is probably my new favorite.

The Kale and Wheat Grass really made this one green! 
It was raining most of the morning so G and I decided to go for a long hike in the woods.  The trails would have been a mess to ride on.  By the time we got to the trails the rain had stopped, the temperature started to rise and the sun eventually worked itself out to reveal a beautiful 60 degree day!

I love a good walk through the woods.  I get to take in a lot more than when I am rolling on my bike.  It allows for great conversation and a chance to work different muscle groups in my legs.

Heading to the top of Spitzenberg@ Blue Mountain Reservation.  
View on top of the Blue Mountain Summit.  This is on the other side of the park and the sun was shining bright.  
Stopping for a minute to catch a view of the stream over in Depew Park

G- taking some photos of the stream 
Sunday, we were invited to join the Campmor Team on their training road ride.  Knowing this was going to kick my butt- I still humbly accepted the invitation.  I have been wanting to ride with these friends for a while now but the timing had just not worked until now.

The plan was a hilly 55 miles and that is exactly what we did + 1 extra mile for good measure.  I do not know the final stats of how many feet of climbing we did but I know it was a lot!  This ride took us from Tuxedo, NY into the back side of Harriman State Park which is one of the most beautiful parks in our area.  There were some pretty wicked climbs but most of them rolling or steady.  After a massive climb from the bottom of Bear Mountain to the top of Perkins Drive, we headed back the same way we came through the park.

This was exactly what I needed.  A really awesome road ride with more climbing than I have done all winter.  Basically a good ass kicking!  I had to push myself pretty hard but overall- I felt like I did alright.  I was not the fasted by any means and was usually in the back of the pack, but I tried to just stay steady.  As my friend RR would say, "it is money in the bank woman!".

Thank you Team Campmor friends for the great tour and for letting us tag along- you guys rock!

Smiles all day- even on the climbs!

For those of you that have sent me some extra love and positive energy over this past week- thank you.  You do not know how much that means to me.  It has helped me a lot to share this with all of you.  It took a lot of the fear out of it for me.

I will keep you posted on this weeks results.