It’s been a while….time for an update

Welcome to 2016! First post of the new year and it is already February 10th.

It’s odd. Now that the worst of everything is behind me I find that I’m not using the blog as much to work through everything. I feel like my life is back to a new normal now. Hair is slowly growing back and my strength at the gym is coming back.

The winds of change did come. I applied for and got a new job at the company where I’m employed. Lateral move into a new position. Didn’t realize how 4 years in my old role had taken its toll on me and now I’m very much enjoying my new job, new responsibilities, and being creative again. I just had to put everything for 2015 behind me and I began my new job as of 1/4/2016 – first day back to work in January.

Was a bit nervous with my first trip in January for work – back on a plane. Don’t have to wear a compression sleeve since I didn’t lose any lymph nodes, but still, I did end up telling one TSA that I did have a medical implant and he moved me into some other line. No troubles though and all went well. Many more trips to come in 2016.

As far as my health I am happy to report that I have only 3 more treatments to go – the next treatment being tomorrow, 2/11/2016. The treatments left are immunotherapy and I’m very happy to say that they are more an inconvenience than anything – no side effects ever noted! Very happy about that.

At the gym I’ve continued with Crossfit. Winds of change also hit there, too and I’m now a big fan of the Crossfit Football program which I’m following along with my 5 am class of less than 5. I’m very happy to announce that in the last month I’ve PR’d my back squat at 90 lbs, I did a workout with a 1 pood KB, and PR’d my double unders hitting 30 in a row just today! My back/arm strength is still low – but I’m continuing to work on my pull ups (only doing strict, no kipping pull ups for me!) and my strength is improving but it’s much slower. I continue to keep working and my friends in class are an amazing support. Working on getting my bench press back up and that is coming, too. Overall I’m now more dedicated to working out and eating healthy. FYI – now that I’ve had the port for what seems like forever, I will do all lifts with it that I was afraid to do before. I’ve learned that the lifts don’t hit where the port is and I’ve never had a problem.

My big change was starting in Jan 2016 I decided to begin making smoothies to get more vitamins in my diet. I’m not a big fan of vegetables and felt I should try smoothies. I can now say that I’m a convert. Each morning I have a smoothie – usually Power Greens with apple and sometimes lemon or orange juice added in to help with absorption of the iron. Alternatively I like orange smoothies (golden beets and carrots with apple) or red smoothies (beets with carrots and apples). All are great and as the seasons change I’ll likely throw in additional fruits to change things up a bit. I can honestly say that as I have decreased the amount of carbs I eat each day and focus on drinking lots of water and eat well, that I truly do feel amazingly well.

Another part of the new year was a resolution to take care of myself. I now have a list of things I write out each day and then check off as I do them. I don’t get them all done all days but that’s ok. I just leave them unchecked and write notes if I ate a cookie (or cookies) or enjoyed an unhealthy meal. That’s fine – funny thing is I usually don’t feel as well when I do these things – which helps reinforce the healthier diet. What I have on my little list per day: plank in the morning(currently trying to do 2 x 1 min), stretch in the morning (ideally 10 min, sometimes as little as 5), crossfit (3 times a week though I’m seriously considering bumping to 4 days a week), drinking 32 oz of water in the morning, eating yogurt with breakfast, having smoothie at breakfast (veggie/apple-fruit one), having a healthy breakfast, multi vitamin, vitamin D, probiotics, tamoxifen, drinking 32 oz of water in the afternoon, healthy lunch, healthy dinner, fish oil,  stretch (10 min again ideally), plank again (2 x 1 min or at one point I was going 1 x 1 min 45 sec), good sleep. Writing the list each day and crossing it off keeps me honest. I’m no where near perfect but at least I get back on the horse day in and day out.

I’ll continue to be strong physically and mentally. The new job has helped me take all of the lessons from the past and apply them in a new setting. Sometimes you can’t make the changes you know you need to make where you are. You simply need to change things up a bit and then, amazingly, you can spread your wings in new directions and take flight.

Winds of Change

I’m an extremely conservative person by nature. I don’t like big changes. I don’t like to go without a plan. I don’t like things not going the way I had envisioned them in my head. Oddly, some of the biggest changes in my life I didn’t plan for and they worked out completely fine, even learned a lot from them in very positive and interesting ways.

Embrace change.

I have insanely short hair that JUST grew back but oddly, I spend more time than ever at the barber shop getting it cut every 3-4 weeks. Instead of trying to grow my hair back as fast as possible to what it was, I’ve decided to have great looking haircuts all the way along this journey as my hair grows out. Truth – it’ll take my hair so much longer to grow out but honestly, I’m totally rockin’ the pixie cut right now and having WAY COOL designs shaved into my hair is truly invigorating and freeing.

You see, I’m a people pleaser. I like to make people happy. If people like me now why would I ever want to change myself into something that they might not like? Well, with chemo knocking my hair out my husband has proved that he loves me through and through. While I know he’s patiently waiting for the hair to grow back, I’m going for broke experimenting with my hair options, style options for work and home, jewelry options, experimenting with it all. It’s fun!  It’s my life. I have to live it the way I want to and learn to not be so afraid of change.


noun: renegade; plural noun: renegades
1. a person who deserts and betrays an organization, country, or set of principles.
Feeling a bit like a renegade these days. I got the coolest haircut – my hair had grown in a bit to a short, short pixie hair cut (still not enough to spike it up with any hair product). I’d seen photos of the writer Suleika Jaouad where she had her hair shaved into fun patterns and afterwards she wrote about how, following her battle with cancer, getting her hair cut as such helped set her free because for once she wasn’t the one without hair or with short, short hair – but for once people she didn’t even know were calling out to her about how cool her haircut was. Cancer wouldn’t let her hide so she made herself stand out even more and by doing so, regained control.
This is how I feel about my haircut. I no longer look like a woman with a super short pixie (come on, it was still a little too short if you know what I  mean). Now I look edgy and artsy. I look like I intentionally buzzed my hair and turned myself into walking art, and I like it. The pixie was cute and I’ll continue to grow my hair out on top but along the sides and back it’s too much to keep so short. I’ll grow it out as the top grows out more. I want to try other designs, other moods in my hair.
The guy that cut my hair was amazing. I’m so happy to have found him. I got his name from the local hospital from one of my chemo nurses at my last Herceptin treatment. I cannot wait to show her what he did! He said that normally hair grows in in 3-4 weeks and the cut isn’t as great and gets fuzzy. I’m still wondering if my hair will grow as fast. Time will tell. For now, it’s truly empowering to be in charge of the artwork on my head and to stand out and feel my artistic side showing itself. Makes me want to do more – dress more with a certain style to match. Try something new.
My job is so corporate but I live in such an accepting town that pushing this envelop is very comfortable here. Only my mother wasn’t as excited but I’m sure she’ll warm up to it in time, especially to different designs. I’m likely to hit something she may like more than my first design.
I haven’t been posting much as all lately. I haven’t needed to vent or let any thoughts out. I wanted to make sure to call out my hair cut and share my excitement here but that’s about it. Lately I’ve been hitting a new groove that is all about habits. This getting old thing is for the birds and the cancer thing was way less than fun. Following a “challenge” that I participated in at my gym, I’ve now established a few really good habits/rules for myself:
1. 64 oz water a day (first 32 to be had before leaving for work, second 32 oz to be finished by the time I leave work)
2. vitamin daily
3. probiotic daily
4. fish oil daily
5. Tamoxifen daily (for the next 5 years….)
6. moisturize full body after any shower
7. brush my teeth 2x day with electric brusher
8. sleep – go to bed after putting the daughter to sleep, 9 pm to bed to get all the sleep I need
9. go to bed with a sleep/hypno app – straight to sleep so easily with it!
10. if I wake up in the morning and cannot get back to sleep – enjoy being all tucked in and meditate for a while before getting up
11. leave my computer at work
12. try to eat healthy the majority of the time (lots of fresh fruit, carrots, beets)
13. connection – keep in touch with friends, call, write, text, stop by their office at work, stop and catch up, find out how they are doing, focus outward not inward
14. no TV (fill this time with hanging out with the daughter! color, do arts and crafts, go outside, read, cook, go shopping, etc.)
15.  minimal newspaper – or just skim but don’t read the full articles if the article title talks about death, dying, murder, fatalities, or anything else like that – read titles so I’m aware of what’s up but I don’t let myself get pulled into the depths of the details day in and day out. It’s too much for me to carry around. Since I’ve removed TV and adjusted how I read the newspaper I feel much lighter – it’s easier to focus on the good things in my life or focus on supporting my friends who need my support due to challenges they are being faced with.
16. crossfit 3 x week
17. Live in the present – not worrying about yesterday, fretting about what might be tomorrow or crying about something I cannot change. Just be, and be happy, be grateful, be supportive, be compassionate, be me.
I dunno – I was telling someone at work today how I used to say that I felt everything has slowed down so much for me at work. Now I feel like I’m finally hitting a little more of a stride and that oddly, I think I know what’s different – it’s the anxiety. It’s not there anymore hovering over me, making me feel rushed and worried. It’s just not the same. It’s a very nice and welcome change and I hope that everything I’ve listed above will help me retain my strength and happiness. I believe it will.
Sorry – my posts are less focused now that I’m healthier. Odd how that works. I’m back to my old rambling self trying to find a new path forward for myself. As for being a renegade – I just heard this song recently by X Ambassadors call Renegade and really liked it. Kind of feel like a renegade in that I no longer live to work, I now work to live. By limiting myself to 40 hrs or so a week, leaving my computer at home, getting outside of my job after hours I give myself a huge gift – the gift of a break from thinking about things. It’s now easier to come in each day with a fresh perspective. I think I truly am working more efficiently, making better decisions. Doing less but doing the better things, the more impactful things (well, trying to at least – this is a continued work in progress for me, especially given my job). Still feel guilty some times as compared to some colleagues but I fully acknowledge that they have made the decision for themselves to work so many hours, just as I have decided to work what I’m paid to work and do the best that I can while I am there. Hopefully some day I won’t feel guilty about this, but I think that’s still a long way off.

Same but Not

Things are confusing. Things are weird. They aren’t what they are and they are moving to something new, but I just don’t know what yet. It’s very unsettling.

After 3 weeks off for the surgery in August I took it upon myself to retain my calmer, quieter mind. I continue with the hypno-therapy sleep app that is amazing – and keeping work at work. When the anxiety or work thoughts enter my mind I simply push them away and tell myself that it’s not time for work right now, so I’m not going to think about things. This has helped keep my stress levels down a bit but not always – sometimes thoughts still creep in.

I cannot tell if its the quieter mind that makes me feel slower of mind or just that I really am slower in the mind. I have to admit that I my organization skills weren’t what they were. I think it’s honestly it’s likely more due to age than to the residual chemo effects – but whatever it is, it is very unnerving and annoying. Part of it is that I just cannot remember some things easily – someone tells me there name and 2 seconds later it’s gone (true, this also used to happen a bit but I think it might be worse). Also – at work, I can have entire conversations and if I’m not writing things down nearly verbatim, I will end the conversation and not have the key points clear in my mind. It’s like it is all jumbled up and I stare at the information and have to figure out how to untangle the mess in my brain before I can even move forward and do what needs to be done. It wasn’t like that before. I keep finding myself staring at my computer thinking – what do I do with this? How do I use this information? Where does this piece go?  Probably doesn’t help that we just went through a huge, new brainstorming exercise that just feels so alien to me – I’m so far out of my comfort zone right now with some things at work – that I feel like I’m wandering through a fog, slowly with zero progress and everyone else around me is zipping here and there and is busy, busy busy! and I refuse to be insane and anxiety driven anymore, so I continue to slowly, I would hope methodically (though it just doesn’t happen this way!) keep moving – but instead I feel lost – like a sailor lost at see on a small life raft floating – watching the horizon for land. It’s been very, very frustrating and this feeling has continued for a while. I wish I could shake it but I think, especially at work where it is most prevalent, that I need to just keep going until I come out the other end. Doesn’t help that I have a new boss this year who is the most hands off, cares and provides feedback at the highest levels only and really doesn’t care about the day to day what’s going on. It’s unnerving – to have to continually try to drive myself forward for progress – I respond well (VERY well) to “good job” – “do this” “make sure x,y,z” – etc. and a little pushing and there’s just none of that in the same manner that I’m accustomed to. I email things and they going into some black box and I never get feedback. I follow up different ways in meetings and still, it is like pulling teeth to get more feedback.  Why pull? Why ask? Why communicate so much – If she isn’t going to be as engaged until it suits her whim, I’m not going to push as hard – just not worth it. Should be, but just isn’t. Lost my motivation. It comes and goes but mostly goes these days. Work is work – it’s not engaging it just is. And I kind of miss engaging work. Have to figure out how to get the excitement back. The organization back. There is much to do and I thought this year would be different and well, it has been but just not the way I thought it would be. Shame fests a la Brene Brown are often some weeks. At least thanks to her I recognize them and remind myself that I am worthy and I am enough. Just need to keep saying it. Refocus. Refocus. Move forward. Baby steps. Things are different now and it’s unsettling but if I just keep moving forward eventually I’ll be out of this dratted, F$%^$! up work tunnel I feel like I’m in. And of course – breath – doing much more of this thanks to that nightly hypno/sleep tape.

Silly But True

My hair is slowly growing in. I can still see my scalp through it – especially noticeable in pictures – even though it looks so much better!  Silly thing is that I now wash AND condition it in the shower. I barely have any hair but I believe in great hair care so I’m using the nicest conditioner in the house!!

On another note – my husband had shaved his head a second time since mine started growing back and he has passed me again in thickness and length. I joked with him that he should shave it one more time and see if his hair can still out-grow mine. At least mine is coming. I’ve received many compliments on the shape of my head, and some folks really do seem to like the super-short hairdo. Can’t complain with the maintenance!

At least sandal season has passed…

Last time I took care of my toe nails, it was for a pedicure a few days before my surgery in early August. Since then, I’ve done nothing to them but enjoy them. Now, it’s nearly October so you can imagine that they’ve grown out quite a bit in that time. Today, came to find in my shoe at work that the big toe nail on one side had ripped off on its own and was floating around inside my shoe.  Seems the chemo did impact those nails as well – which was to be expected. With me letting my nails get so long, they now needed trimming and – long story short, most of them needed a huge trim to remove the dead, cancer-ridden ickiness from them. Unfortunately I couldn’t get rid of all of it (still some to grow out on most toes) but at least the ickiness is moving on – however slowly. Least sandal season has passed. Missing both big toe nails is nothing to share with the world!

I have 2 hairstyles!

As of about last Friday, I now have 2 hair styles to choose from!! I can either push all of my hair forward toward my nose or push it to the side. Not enough hair to spike it yet but I’m working on it.  Also – can still see my scalp through my hair but it IS getting longer – as noted by my ability to actually be able to noticeably push it in one direction or the other. Baby steps as it grows in……bit of a joke but also a bit of fun. When I push it to the side it looks like I might have actually cut my hair this short on purpose…..


Well it took long enough! The last few days I’ve been taking medication in the morning  then feeling fine the rest of the day and barely needing any. Yesterday it was 1 percoset at 7 am – then 1 at 5:30 pm. This morning it was 2 Tylenol at 6:15 am then none all day. I was so thrilled that the hurt finally, FINALLY died down and went away – that I celebrated with 2 small glasses of a nice white table wine! Oh – such an easy small buzz never felt so good.

I started driving right before I went back to work – wasn’t so great first time out to the library. I parked in a parking garage – mistake!  So much turning irritated everything a bit. But after a few days – all was well.

I’m at 5 and a half weeks today. Something magical about 6 weeks. Next Monday I’m going to the gym! Will only be stretching and maybe running or light erg (turning the tension down as low as it will go) – to see how things go. My calf muscles are so tight it’s ridiculous! Everything is. Will spend week #1 just stretching – lots of mobility!

Sleeping really well these days. Found a great sleep/hypno app – Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson. If I’m tired -puts me right out. I’ve gotten used to his thick accent and now quite enjoy it. Lulls me to sleep.

Also – was SUPER DUPER excited that I went camping (in a tent!) with my family this past weekend. So nice to be OUT of the house and feel normal again!! Oh how I had missed it. I slept on a brand new cot (thank you amazing husband!) and all bundled up. Was perfect weather for camping and relaxing. Got my heart rate up a bit on a small hike – even trying to take it easy there was a bit I had to go to get back up from where I’d gone down to! All in all it was great. Also was the first time today that I walked up all 3 flights of stairs at work – only once. Trying to wait the full 6 weeks to take it easy. If I blow it now it would be bad…… patience is key!

Insert Expletive Here

It was bound to happen I guess, though I hoped it wouldn’t. I over did it after the surgery. Just woke up in pain from the surgery. Usually when I’d wake up if I wasn’t moving I wouldn’t hurt – and I’d realize I was 2-3 hrs out from when the pain pill (percoset) wore off and it would begin to hurt as I got up to get to the pain pills. Tonight I woke up 2 hrs afterwards but this time in pain. Fuck me! It hurt. I also have some kink on my left side that sometimes I annoy. I swear – when you talk to people they mention that “everybody’s different” as far as their pain after the surgery. Everyone before surgery said 3 weeks off. I took of 3.5 weeks before going back. I’ve been taking it easy – still no high heart rate (I don’t even walk up the stairs at work, only down them), no heavy things picked up – my computer has been staying at work so I don’t have to carry it back and forth and I don’t take it to any meetings, my arms haven’t gone straight up over my head since before the surgery.  If it was still going to hurt this much from after the surgery then I’m still healing in HUGE ways and they should have told me to stay the FUCK home!  They give me 40 percoset at a time and I look at it as a 10 day supply which doesn’t seem like much these days. Today was actually the first day I was trying to just use the percoset at night. So – it was 2 Tylenol as of this morning, then 2 Tylenol at lunch (6 hrs later) – then 1 percoset 6 hrs later around dinner and then I woke up NEEDING the percoset – fuck.

I’m just so, SO tired of the pain and soreness. The inability to do what I want to do with my arms and chest. Actually -it’s not so much the inability to do anything – because in all honesty when I WAS putting away laundry and doing dishes last night it didn’t hurt much more than it normally does – so I did have the movement I thought I could have but evidently I was wrong – dead wrong. Fucking doctors. I swear, they should have said I had to stay home 5 weeks without movement so I’d heal faster and NOT overdue it. Since I went back at about 4 weeks figured it’d be a little sore but ok. The discomfort that has continued is NOT what I had imagined. Seriously?! I feel like if I had stayed quieter, not gone back to work that maybe it wouldn’t still fucking hurt!!!

My husband says it’s one step forward, two back. I say no – I hadn’t gone back like this before – this is NOT acceptable to me. This is NOT acceptable!!!  Considering  popping a second percoset is not acceptable. I know I’m upset and angry and want to lash out at everyone from my husband to my doctors to the cancer to EVERYTHING right now. I’m just SICK of it all. The pain. The healing. The looking for the silver fucking lining in everything.

Just this morning I was telling myself that if my body’s monthly cycling is over it seems to be great for my complexion! I’ve been prone to breakouts and blemishes nearly all of my life excluding the time I was on birth control pills or actually pregnant. It’s cleared up -yeah (how sarcastic can I be when I say that….).

I’m also having trouble at work. When my health went to hell my priorities were finally fixed, reset to where they always should have been – health/me first with family and friends followed by work. Not only did my work drop down a few notches (I’m fairly certain it was #1 in my mind, all the time through graduate school, post doc and then until my daughter was born – when it finally went to #2 behind family)….but now I’ve completely lost any passion I had for my career. It’s now a fucking job. Go in, do what you need to and get home. I work to LIVE not live to work. I’m NOT my father who works all the time to this day with no hobbies.  Problem is that when I lost my passion and I am still on pain medication that I need to take every 6 hrs so I don’t hurt physically, I also have had a ton of trouble engaging at work. Kind of like Maverick in Top Gun when he’s holding Goose’s dog tags in his hands and he won’t engage the enemy in battle and the catapult is stuck on the aircraft carrier and they cannot get anyone else up into the air. He just stairs into nothingness asking Goose to talk to him and tell him what to do. I have a whole lot of OMG right now as the seconds and minutes tick by until a huge presentation I need to prepare and give to help drive a half day long strategy/state of the market discussion at work. I’m petrified! I can’t get traction. I can’t get going. I become the deer in the headlights saying FUCK FUCK FUCK to myself over and over – FOCUS! START! and then I get overwhelmed again and find myself going back to the smaller, simpler work instead of digging into the obviously HUGE FUCKING presentation that I need all of this time to put together.

I’m depressed about this. Docs said it might be the Tamoxifen which I started a week or so ago – I’m not sure. I think it’s just another excuse to not be in a better mood. Saw something on Facebook that said you have to CHOOSE to be happy each morning. Pretty sure I’ve been waking up thinking I’m still fucked and waiting for the cloud to go away.  The 2nd cup of mocha coffee (a HUGE no no for me) did bring a smile to my face at work – that and the chocolate I was sharing with a coworker. I feel like I needed the extra stimulants (cocoa and caffeine) just to get through. I usually never go for a second cup (granted it was a weak coffee both times) but it was the only thing that really perked me up yesterday.  How awful right? Not so bad but still, I don’t know – just wish this good mood thing wasn’t such an uphill battle all of the time…and in all honesty in this blog when there are huge lags in any posts, that means life has been good. I usually write only to share the issues that make me sad or anger me or that I find too silly/stupid and unexpected not to share. So all in all the posts have slowed a lot lately which really is a good thing…..  it’s just that although the cancer is now out of my body the fun on the roller coaster still continues. Just when I thought I knew how this ride went and that it wasn’t so scary anymore it scared me again and made me cry. Fuck cancer for making me feel this way. I want to say that I’m stronger than this – better than this but all I can say is what Brene Brown has taught me to say – I am worthy. I am enough. I’ll repeat that since it’s damned important – I AM WORTHY. I AM ENOUGH. and this whole situation still sucks…..

Long Live Netflix!

Netflix kept me quiet during my recovery. VERY quiet. I laid on the bed, mastectomy pillows under my arms, a huge stack of pillows behind my back to make it more comfortable (keeping me at an elevated/angle) and stared at the television. By my side was a little plastic organizing box – in it was the house phone, my 2 cell phones, the TV remote, tissues, a book and a magazine to read if I wanted. This little bin was small enough to sit on the bed next to me and not take up any noticeable room – and also helped me to keep from reaching (or losing) anything that I longed for during my resting time on the bed. I also had two big, long body-type pillows on either side of me (in addition to the mastectomy pillows). I had my own little recovery nest and it was awesome.

When visiting the surgeon to get my ok to return to work, I heard something I hadn’t expected – that I was a “model patient” during recovery. Seems my Plastic Surgeon wasn’t kidding when he and his nurse kept saying how fast I was healing. My surgeon said that to heal quickly, one needs to sit tight, stay-put and REST. Netflix and having my young daughter out of the house for the first week and a half of my recovery really, really helped me stay quiet and I attribute this to my “model patient” status with the surgeon. I had no idea it was THAT important to be quiet. Yes, yes – “don’t over do it.” “Don’t put your arms over your head or your shoulders past 90 degrees. Don’t get your heart rate up for 6 weeks post surgery.” All of these I heard but I’d never heard that a the quieter the patient the faster wounds heal! I had no idea. I kept recalling other experiences I’ve heard of where doctors these days want patients up and walking around a lot, instead of bed-ridden like the old days. The local hospital has information on the walls about how far people are walking based on what loops they are walking on the floor they are on. I had walked around just a bit in the house – maybe 20 min of up and around activity when I had to go to the bathroom, eat my pills, get food and water to replenish – then I’d move around but even then, I was very careful. I also was very careful not to stretch forward. I noticed this as soon as I tried – stretching forward to pick something up – was something I could feel, so I very quickly was careful about not lifting anything heavy (the surgeon never gave me a certain weight not to lift, but even carrying 2 dinner plates was enough to elicit a very light twinge – so I deemed 1 plate enough in the early days).  I think I got lucky and struck a good balance of moving around the house and also resting – especially anything to do with the pectoral muscles. You’d be amazed how much they are involved in.

In the end, for me as I started to get better and do a little more around the house I noticed that even the simple, little movements would make my incision area a little sore. Opening toothpaste or a pill bottle (push and turn). Cutting up a ripe peach. So – the moral of the story for anyone who may go through a double mastectomy – DO take it easy. REST REST REST your upper body. Don’t lift things. Don’t reach for things. Don’t put arms over head until your doctor says you can and give yourself time to heal! Mentally you might feel ok but taking this time for yourself to be quiet, restful is paramount to a faster recovery time – and for me, Long Live Netflix!