First, I must say, there is no “after cancer”. Once you have it, it will always be with you for the rest of your life. Those are the facts. But then cancer is with everyone; the cells are perennially in our bodies; they just don’t run rampant in a normal healthy body where the immune system keeps them at bay and doesn’t allow them to take over. And once they try to take over, the battle begins for your body to prevail in such a way that you can again regain your health.
But this doesn’t mean that you need to live in fear of the cancer returning after you have either cured it or gone into remission.
It has been nearly six months since my last radiation treatment. That, along with the surgery and chemotherapy has, for the time being removed the cancerous cells from my body. And if all is well, I am hoping that the cancer will not return. I will have to say that I have gone back to leading a nearly normal life. I have some leftover side effects, especially from the Taxol. My toes and fingers are still a little numb on the tips, although my nails are growing back again and look pretty good, especially on my hands. I also have constant sinus drainage which is causing a cough. During the Taxol treatment, my nose would fill up with blood and I had to use saline solution every day to keep my sinuses open. And my digestive tract is still a little out of whack. I have lower abdominal pain and gas and sometimes diarrhea. But nothing that keeps me from my daily activities.
I am no longer on the strict diet that I was practicing during cancer treatment. I eat pretty much everything now, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, I have a cup of coffee every morning and I love it. After being deprived of some of my favorite foods during cancer treatment, when I started eating those foods again, it was like being in heaven. The chocolate tasted so good as did the ice cream, it was like tasting them for the first time. I savor my morning coffee and I have an occasional beer and glass of wine.
When I was in chemo therapy, I had to do everything in my power to help the treatment to work. I needed to keep my body as healthy as I could during that time. And I think it worked. Now, however, the cancer is gone, and I can lead a normal life again. And being that it was diagnosed as being caused by hormones, I just need to make sure that I eat natural foods, and I am taking a breast cancer inhibitor, Anastrozil, which will keep the cancer from returning.
I am also making sure that I do my follow up appointments with my doctors. And I have four of those and have added another due to some scar tissue on my right lung, we think due to the radiation treatments. So I have been back to see my breast surgeon and my radiation doctor. I had a follow up CT scan and mammogram of my left breast and I am clear. And I will have to have these tests periodically for the next several years. If the cancer does return we want to catch it early and treat it so that it doesn’t get away from us. One thing is clear to me; cancer in your body is there to kill you. It means to take over and kill your good cells, get into your vital organs and has the potential to bring about your demise, if you let it.
But I am not going to worry about it. I am carrying on with my life in a grand manor. The one thing that I have learned over the past year is that I must not put things off any longer. Tomorrow may never come, so I have to do as much as I can today. The trips I want to take, spending time with friends and family, I must seize the opportunity. I traveled to Washington state in September and climbed part way up Mount Rainier and hiked Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. I then traveled to San Francisco and spent the weekend with my son and his wife. We did the zip line in the red woods and then the next day hiked eight and one half miles in Point Reyes.
In November, I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to help a friend celebrate her fiftieth birthday along with fourteen of her goods friends and family. We snorkeled and did the zip line in the canopy, hung out on the beach, drank margaritas and generally had a wonderful time. I am living my life.
And I am I whipping this body back into shape. I work out at least five days a week and I am seeing the results. I do a body pump class on Tuesday and Thursday, Yoga on Wednesday, I climb my mountain on Friday and run/jog four miles on Saturday. Whew, I’m tired thinking about it. But I feel that this will help to keep my organs healthy and keep the cancer from returning. Plus, it allows me to eat almost anything and not gain weight.
Needless to say, I’m not spending my days worrying about whether the cancer returns or not. If it does, I will deal with it. I have such a feeling of well being right now. My emotional stability is better than it has ever been in my entire life. Albeit, I am having some trouble getting motivated to do my writing and the work that I have to do. But that will come. This is a time for me to heal, to get my energy back, get my body healthy again and I am allowing myself to do that. It is a good time in my life.
I look at where I was a year ago, just starting on the strong chemo treatments and how far I have come and I am amazed. And I look back too and think that, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was told that certain things would happen to me, like my fingernails would fall off. during the Taxol treatment. Well, they didn’t. I came through this time in the best way possible. Partly due to my diligence in working out and eating healthy and partly due to having wonderful doctors, a great support group and family behind me. Would I want to do this again? No. I am done with cancer, hopefully and now I can get my life back and do the things I have been wanting to do for years. Life is good.