Thursday, September 29, 2011

Walk This Way

This week when I started exercising on the treadmill, Robbie asked me if I had initially been reluctant to start exercising because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to breath.  I hadn’t said anything to him about it, but he hit the nail on the head.

The first day I got on the treadmill, I started at a snail’s pace.  I was absolutely sure that once I got up to a decent pace that my heart race would sky-rocket and that I’d be gasping for air.  Last year, the main symptom that signaled that I had cancer last year was an inability to breathe when doing any kind of exertion.  Even though I was given an all-clear in August, I still worry a lot.  But all was well!  My heart rate certainly increased, but only in the way it should.  And I could breath.  My breathing was heavy, but I was breathing.  And I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt. 

The exercise is going great, and I’m feeling great as a result.  The first day was rough with regards to shaky muscles, but it has gotten better each day even with an increase in time and distance.  I set a small goal this week – to do a mile in a single session.  And I accomplished that yesterday.  I want to increase by a mile a week until I’ve reached three miles in a session, and then work on increasing the speed/incline to get more benefit.

I’m hoping by next month’s check-in with my primary care that I’ll be doing my three miles a day and that I’ll be a few pounds down as well.  And hopefully she and I can work on a plan for long-term health and cancer fighting strategies.    

One step at a time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shake a Leg

This past weekend was a wonderful fall weekend.  Saturday we took a drive to a winery we love for their annual cider festival.  On the way back we stopped at an apple orchard for fresh honey crisp apples.  I can’t express enough how much I love this time of year.

I have finally dusted off the treadmill and gave it a spin.  It was brutal.  But I did it.  I’ve been out-of-shape many times, so this isn’t my first time back in the saddle.  But this definitely is going to be the hardest.  My legs have never shaked so much in my entire life.  I used to be an avid walker, and was known to walk an 8-mile stint on a Sunday afternoon.  And the first time I did that, I had some shaky muscles.  But I’ve never had that with only .6 miles.  But tomorrow is another day, and it will get better.

I am hoping this exercise will give me a bit of confidence in my health.  Or that at least the exercise endorphins will help me cope with the anxiety I still feel.  I have extreme paranoia over every ache and pain.  The ragweed has been getting to me, and I’ve had a little tightness in my chest.  I know it is allergies because I can hear the wheezy congestion.  But it doesn’t keep me from thinking I’ve having lymph node issues.  Keep in mind this all started with an ear ache/sore throat.  If I have lower back pain, I think I have cancer.  If my foot itches I think I have cancer.  If I have cramps, I think I have cancer.  I wish I could stop these thoughts.

And apparently I’m not the only paranoid person in the household.  I often get the question “Are you alright?” in response to every cough, sniffle, and groan.  I know that it’s only out of concern, but it only plays into my already intense paranoia. 

My plan to cope is to keep enjoying fall, keep walking, and hug some beagles.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Today I’d like to talk about how proud I am of my Mother.  Today I accompanied her to her colonoscopy.  She put aside her fear of needles and anesthesia and all things medical to get one of the most important screenings available for the early detection of cancer.  Women are just as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer, as they are to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  People just don’t like to talk about it.  She was an absolute trooper, and followed her preparation instructions to the letter.  And the preparations are not fun.  Not at all.  But she did it.  She did have some polyps and those were removed.  So it is very good that she went.  And I think she’s pretty awesome.

Ironically, the gastroenterologist’s office was in the same building as my surgeon’s office.   The office of the surgeon who performed my biopsies and presented my cancer diagnosis.  So to say it is not my favorite place is an understatement.   But today, it was made a more positive place.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I finally went for my first post-chemo haircut. I’ve been reluctant to get it cut just because I have so little. But it was getting wooly around the ears and along my neck. Word on the street is that if you hold out on getting it cut you will end up with what is referred to as the “chemo mullet”. I’ve been through enough, a mullet would just be adding insult to injury!

He cut the areas that were disproportionate and trimmed up the places that desperately needed it. We are going for “pixie”. Bizarrely, my hair looked longer when I left than it did when I went in. It’s amazing what a little shaping will do. I will continue to take my multi-vitamin as well as biotin to promote hair growth.

I was bizarrely happy about the haircut. It’s one more milestone to separate me from the Big C!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Cost of Cancer

In previous posts I have mentioned receiving rogue medical bills. It happens every month or two. For many of my treatments, if I pre-notify the insurance company (call them ahead of time to let them know I’m having a particular treatment) they will cover the treatment. The most I usually have to pay is a small co-pay for an office visit. This month I received a $700+ bill for part of my radiation treatment. I called my insurance company, and I just needed to clarify the billing organization. They were billed from the radiation group, but the pre-note was for the hospital. This has happened on several times. In the area where I live there are groups within groups within medical centers. Once I make them aware of the connection, they re-process the claim.

While I was online pulling the claim numbers and dates, I noticed that I could pull a comprehensive list of all the claims into an excel format. I couldn’t resist. I pulled everything for the last year, and summed the processed insurance claims into a grand total. And then I gasped. I could not believe the number. It was staggering. To date, they have paid over $147,000. And to think that compared to many patients I had what would be considered “cancer lite”. My treatment only included doctor visits, six chemotherapy sessions, 18 days of radiation, a bone marrow test, four PET scans, a MUGA scan, and a whole lot of lab work. My treatment did not include any surgeries or hospital stays.

I am so thankful to have wonderful insurance. I was diagnosed two days before Thanksgiving last year. And I remember being at my in-laws house and one of Robbie’s parents asking if we had cancer coverage. They mentioned that sometimes you have to sign up for that separately. And I knew I hadn’t specifically signed up for any type of cancer coverage. We went online that weekend and were pleased to discover that I was covered – at 100% on most things cancer related as long as I pre-notified.

On a brighter note, I feel great right now. I thought I was back to normal a few weeks ago, but I am feeling even better lately. I’m back to my annoying cheerful self. And slowly but surely, I’m regaining some confidence that was lost. Self-doubt has been replaced with a “can-do” attitude. Watch out world. I’m back.

Cancer treatment? $147,000.
The opportunity to live a great life? Priceless.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Where Were You, Christmas?

Last night, Robbie and I were chilling at home watching a movie. I’m not sure how the subject of Christmas came up, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember a thing about what we did on Christmas last year. Cancer ruined Christmas!

I could not remember that we didn’t have a Christmas tree until we started to discuss it. I also couldn’t remember if we exchanged gifts. I had to go back and read my December blogs to figure it all out. I was able to piece things together and now vaguely remember that my Mom was here, it snowed, and that we didn’t do any serious gift giving because we were getting ready to buy a house. I had tears come to my eyes last night when I couldn’t remember the details.

In other news, I am happy to report that the cancer fog has lifted. Up until the last few weeks, I was still struggling to concentrate. I was telling Robbie today, that it was very frustrating to know that I was smarter than I was able to be. And that I finally feel as smart as I am. Even though the structure of the last two sentences may leave some doubt in your mind. I am going to blame my poor sentence structure on the cosmopolitan I enjoyed with dinner.

I would consider myself a multi-tasker. It is routine in my job to be on a conference call while working in a document, and have someone else standing in the doorway trying to ask a quick question. For a while there, I had to uni-task. If I was on a call, I needed to focus 100% on the discussion. If I was working on a document, I could only focus on the document, and heaven forbid it require math. But I have found myself back to my multi-tasking self and it feels amazing. I feel capable. And as Kate proclaims at the end of the world’s most cheesiest and wonderful movie, The Cutting Edge, “I’m in the mood to kick a little ass.” I’ve taken on cancer, now maybe I’ll work on accomplishing some things in the real world.

I know that at times, my posts seem written by someone who is bi-polar. One day I feel overwhelmed by everything, and the next day I’m ready to rock-and-roll. I think some of it stems from the hormone shifts that are still trying to normalize post-chemo. I am due to make an appointment with my normal doctor (not an oncologist!) to get some of this hormonal stuff straightened out. I also know that my attitude suffers when I am tired.

The laptop is nearly out of power, so I’m off to start the long Labor Day weekend with the beagles and my loved ones! Have a great one.