My heart is full of gratitude for my amazing friends: Donna for documenting my haircut and giving me the Wonder Woman plush to squeeze during my biopsies; Barbara for spending the day at MGH during my surgery and holding the calmness; Dora for helping me with all the cutting edge research; Deb for coming by to make my Rhishi and Chaga tea and give me the Cleaver tincture she made; Mindy for throwing my daughter's 9th Birthday party; Irene for coordinating the meals after my surgery; Stacey and Sarah for the carpooling to camp over the summer; Angela for the help organizing my kitchen and also giving rides to soccer practice and games along with Tracey; Roberta, Cathy and Brenda F. for keeping me laughing; Brenda A. for shopping for new bras with me shortly after my double mastectomy; Heather for showing up at the right time with dinner during an emotional moment when I needed a hug; Hope for giving me an awesome book to help plan my support and recovery process; Christine for sending me a gift to get a massage; Bev for flying into town to help around the house who cleaned my floors at 1:00am after a chick flick; Chris for cutting my hair and putting me in touch with a good wig guy; Cindy for leading those weekly Mommy meditations & cleaning my bathrooms and kitchen; Sharon for giving me a shot in my leg to boost white blood cells when I couldn't do it; and Robyn for joining me during my first infusion to keep me and Jim laughing as they dumped the bright red crap into my veins! Last but not least, my friend for life, my Mom for all the support and love. I am blessed such warm, positive and beautiful women in my life!
I was out of the office yesterday and didn't get a chance to reply. I wanted to send you a real email so I couldn't reply from my iphone.
I am glad you are feeling well so far. I want to tell you that I left our visit Wednesday feeling very optimistic about how you are going to do through chemotherapy. At our visit I could sense a remarkable transformation happening during our conversation. I could see that once you made the decision to proceed with chemotherapy, there was no second guessing and you went forward full steam ahead. I could feel a palpable difference in how you are approaching your cancer, with your fear replaced with fortitude, your hesitation replaced by determination. When I saw you later in the infusion room you were like a different person, ready to take this on and not willing to let the treatment get in your way.
It was inspiring to see you channeling your concerns into positive actions and thoughts. That is a very healthy mechanism to deal with the cancer and the treatments, one you should feel proud of as a role model to others.
I hope you continue to feel well. The side effects you reported are within the range of what we can see. Continue to exercise and take care of yourself, and I think you well get through this like a champ. If you have any problems or concerns, feel free to email or call.
Wednesday was a remarkable day because I decided to proceed with the next stage of treatment and went ahead with my first round of chemotherapy. There were a few questions in my mind that needed to be answered, so the Oncologist, Dr. Isakoff was able to shed some light on the concerns I had about the data and statistics. Fortunately, he also reported that my bone scan was clean, and my echocardiogram was very good, so that was a relief. I was so lucky that my friend Robyn joined me and Jim for the day and helped to keep the mood light hearted in her usual way.
There are times in life when you have to turn things over to the experts, even if it does not make total sense to you, and I am at peace with that. I have done so much research and been in mental mode, but now it is time to build my healing cocoon and get into nurturing mode. So far I feel much better than expected. A little more tired, but still able to go to the gym and take spinning classes, walk and do some lower body yoga at home. My arms are still a bit constrained because I can't do repetitive motion or lift them very high since my surgery, but it gets a little easier every day.
Yesterday I went out to a wig store with my 9 year old daughter, Kendra, and she helped me try on and select something that we were both comfortable with. I felt this stage would hit her the hardest and wanted to include her in the decision. Next week a close friend who went with me to the Miss America Pageant and acted as my hairdresser back stage, will come to my house to cut my hair. Christopher and I have been through a lot together since I stepped into his salon over 30 years ago! My mom will next try to help me with creating a pony tail from my hair to hopefully use under a baseball cap if we can make it work.
Finally, I have to say how amazed I am by my husband, Jim, who has walked with me and not tried to push his opinion regarding this tough decision. He was right by my side doing research and actually spent many more hours watching testimonials and videos as well as reading books. I love him more than ever for that and appreciate his strength during this time. Men who are with women in this position must feel helpless. I am very blessed, not to have this awful diagnosis and treatment, but to have this ability to look at my life in a very different way and to appreciate all that my life has to offer. I would like to end this note with a quote from a song I heard in spinning class today, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, stand a little taller....me, myself and I."
Finally, I am getting back in touch:) It was a great few weeks of healing which included a road trip to South Carolina and Florida where I enjoyed time with family and was able to relax and pretend to some degree that this is not all happening right now. I feel very good physically and am healing well from the surgery, which happened 5 weeks ago now. I was able to get more active, do some walking and biking during our vacation, and even got back to a spinning bike class at my gym for the first time on Friday. It felt great to get back in the groove! A few friends had pulled together a sign making prayer intention activity when I was away. When I returned I noticed my garden had words painted that were on each corner: "Breathe" "Hope" to name a few. I was so touched. When I went to church this morning, I spoke with the woman who coordinated it and thanked her for bringing more women together with this sweet intention. She also told me she started dedicating Thursdays to me as her active prayer time during her run and started on the Thursday I had surgery. It's just amazing. I felt very emotional at church and asked for clarity and discernment with my decision this week. Probably the most important decision of my life thus far.
Unfortunately, the mental stress has been off the wall. As it gets closer to the date when the docs are pushing me to start chemo, I have more and more trepidation about it and have still not made my final decision. You see, I realize that it is a band aid and not a cure, so what I am trying to figure out is if I will be able to make the environment in my body healthy enough to prevent future cancer from spreading after lowering my immunity and being torn down by all these poisons. It makes no logical sense to me since I have been trying to do the reverse to create an environment where healthy cells win the battle against abnormal cells! Chemotherapy will go down in history as barbaric I am sure one day. It will certainly eradicate abnormal cells and many more beneficial cells causing potential damage to vital organs. It may cause heart damage, brain issues, nerve problems, leukemia, liver damage to name a few complications, and will definitely cause exhaustion, neuropathy, memory loss, hair loss, nausea liver toxicity. The questions I have are: How would I be able to eat and nourish my body? How would I be able to function as a mother of three? Will the physical damage be irreversible? And the most important question is: How would I be able to go into it with a positive attitude? Attitude is so important with every type of recovery. Because I have done so much research it is a double edged sword, and I would certainly be going into it with my eyes wide open.
People may ask what is the alternative? Well there are several. Anything done alternatively would need to be monitored to be sure I am aware of any changes in abnormal cell activity, so that would be key. Over the next couple of days, I will be revisiting some conflicting statistical data of chemo with my particular breast cancer type and mortality rates, survival rates, as well as meeting with both the Naturopath and the Chemo Doctor at Mass General to discuss these numbers which are quite conflicting. I will also be doing a bone scan and echocardiogram on Tuesday. Chemo is scheduled to start Wednesday.
The good news is I feel great right now physically and I am in no pain. When I look at nourishing solutions I feel empowered. When I consider chemo and radiation I feel helpless. So that is my dilemma, and I will need to make my decision very soon. It's funny when you are placed in this position, you see things so differently. You also consider if you are going to die, (which I do not plan to do anytime soon), what type of quality of life you would want to have the last few years and how you would want to live out that time? Would you want to spend those years with your children as happy memories and be able to be the person you always were? Would you rather a cancer eventually get to you or have complications from chemo, radiation, and drugs? Do you want to spend your time in hospitals or at home? Most importantly, you have to believe that your body is an amazing thing and that it naturally wants to live as you do in your core soul. You have to have faith that you can heal on all levels and it includes keeping stress to a minimum. Some articles I have read name stress as 85% of the problem with all disease because of the way it affects your adrenals, so if that is true I need to choose the path with less stress and find the joy and peace in the mist of this storm. Once again, I pray for clarity in this very important decision and hope God will guide me to the choice that is best for me.