I’m okay!

Okay first a short bit of clarification.

It’s not like I am desperate to have a baby – that’s not what all the tears were about yesterday. I have two awesome babies – I am luckier than many! But we definitely were seriously considering another baby, and it just sucks to have that choice taken away. When my period came back that one time in June, I honestly thought, “Wait, maybe I don’t want another baby!” I just want to have the choice.

Much of the sadness/anger revolves around not the reproductive side of menopause, but the physical side. I have hot flashes constantly, and they’re miserable. They’re made worse by alcohol, so even a glass of wine can set them off. I have sore hips and a stiff back. My skin breaks out. I’m bloated and irritable. my hands are swollen and stiff every morning. I am forgetful. These are all menopause symptoms. I had hoped my hormone test would come back on the pre-menopausal side, so I could look forward to these annoyances tapering off. Instead, I’m still in the middle of menopause, which means I could be dealing with this stuff for a long time yet to come – years, even.

Anyhow, I talked to Dr. K last night and really there was nothing new – my numbers look bad for my period right now, but he says they can’t predict what will happen over the next four months (end of March is one year from the end of chemo). He says he has 75 year-old women with lower estradiol than mine, so it’s just a question mark right now. In three months he’ll test my blood again and see what the numbers are. Until then, I continue to wait.

But I’m okay. I’m great, actually. I have an amazing family and an awesome life and wonderful, supportive friends. And I’m alive and cancer free, so for now I’m just going to suck it up and deal with the little physical set backs and hope for better days ahead with regard to that!

Hormones and Grief (Video)

A 5-minute video about what’s going on with me. Apologize for the mood and for not just typing it instead – just don’t have it in me to type this up right now. If this doesn’t work, I also uploaded it as unlisted on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Ap5svJsM6V0

I also want to add that it’s not just the baby thing that is upsetting me. It’s all the physical ailments, which are being ascribed to “hormones,” and have no end in sight. It’s going through menopause before my time, before I’m even forty. It’s feeling cheated and old and helpless. It’s everything.

That Thing That All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

I have seen a number of my friends post this article, and I don’t know if it’s because of my age or my height or my general temperament, but I don’t do the behavior the article references. I mean, some of these things I have done in the past – walking with my keys between my fingers, for instance, and in college, lying and saying I had a boyfriend when I did not – but even the latter I eventually stopped. When men would ask me to dance and I didn’t want to, I’d just say no. In one case, a man continued to ask why until I finally said, “Because I’m not attracted do you. I do not find you attractive.” At that point, he walked away.

Once, before I was married (the first time), I was walking down a park path in Monterey, CA. I was listening to my Walkman (yes! That long ago!) and a – I won’t even call him a man – a loser, a waste of space, came up behind me on a bicycle and grabbed my ass. It wasn’t just a cheek, though – it was basically a goose. He slipped his hand nearly between my legs and pulled what I guess you could now call a Donald Trump. He then biked very quickly off.

I was IRATE. To the point that I basically jogged after him, asking everyone I passed if they had seen him, and which way he went. I knew exactly what I would say, and do – and it was possible he’d be going to the hospital after I found him. Luckily for him (and maybe for my criminal record) I didn’t. It still makes me angry to think about. And it wasn’t the only time I have stood up for myself or another woman – in college I once got a guy thrown out of a club for running his hand up my thigh as he walked past me. I once helped pull two drunken jerks off a girl who whispered, “Help me,” to me at a bar. What the article says is true – this nonsense happens every single day. And maybe I don’t minimize, but I also shouldn’t have to be prepared for a fight any time I go out with a dress on.

This article saddens me because so many of my friends have posted and reposted it. I wish I could go after every guy that has made you feel this way. I’m so sorry. I am sad and angry and promise there will be no minimizing if you’re out with me. I will not be quiet. We will roar together.

Politics as usual

Look, I’m not here to judge you. Unless you load your toilet paper with the flap coming out from underneath, in which case I am. And I am judging you harshly.

I grew up in a house with a Dad who had VERY STRONG political opinions. He also had VERY STRONG feelings about anyone who did not agree with his political opinions, and those feelings were VERY NEGATIVE. I saw how mad other people’s opinions made him, and how it altered his life to the point that he wouldn’t watch certain movies or buy certain products because they were directed by or endorsed by some “left-wing liberal commie,” and I made myself a promise. “That will not be you,” I promised myself. “You will not judge people based on their feelings on a political issue.”

I have remained true to this promise. I have friends all over the political spectrum. As far as I am concerned, I judge them based on their actions – the way they treat me, other people, and animals – and not based on who, in their personal opinion, based on their personal experience, is most qualified to represent them or run this country.This has largely served me very well, although I have at times been at the receiving end of other people’s judgments. And that’s really why I’m writing this.

Saw (and reposted) this meme on Facebook today:

wesley

Since the start of this election, I have seen and heard all manner of talk. People talking of deleting their friends who support a candidate they don’t like. People saying nasty, mean-spirited things about each other and about the candidates – and not just regarding their actions, but their looks, their weight, their children. I mean I literally saw a thread on Facebook where one woman referred to another woman’s YOUNG CHILDREN as ugly because the mother was a Trump supporter! How did it come to this? Thankfully I didn’t know either of those women, but I have seen people I know, love, and respect post things that are at best disrespectful and at worst truly poisonous.

This is a tough world. We have chosen each other as friends based on so many experiences, emotions, and of course on intuition. When we’ve weathered this election – and of course whatever the following four years might bring – those words will remain. Whether they’re said about someone specific, about a general group, or even about one of the candidates, any negativity you put out there will remain, and add to this toxicity of these already troubled times.

So speak, and speak with passion and conviction. But also temper that with patience and tolerance – traits so sadly lacking today. And remember…

politics

#Cancerland

This is so, so important. Like this woman, I knew nothing about metastic breast cancer when I was diagnosed, and only found information on it on my own after I began treatment. 

http://www.refinery29.com/2016/10/124446/cancerland-champagne-joy-interview

I do have to add that her words and perspective are very dark and not all exactly true. I have an estrogen driven cancer but mastectomy and hysterectomy were never a suggestion made to me. Likewise, many people live many, many years with metastases. Still, it’s very important to understand metastatic breast cancer and that no one is really a “survivor” after a breast cancer diagnosis – we will all spend the rest of our lives wondering.

Pinktober

I am writing a whole long post on Pinktober and I hope to finish it in the next couple days, but in case I don’t, here’s a nutshell.

I am not opposed to breast cancer awareness month. I do get sick of the pink. Not every company that sells pink stuff is actually donating any of the proceeds to charity. I walk for the American Cancer Society because they personally reached out to me and had a positive impact on me during treatment. Yes a lot of these charities spend a lot of money on administration and marketing/outreach – they have to so that they can make money and actually help current sufferers. If all money went to research we still might not have a cure PLUS no one would be donating because they hadn’t heard of the charities PLUS current sufferers wouldn’t have anywhere to turn.

All that said OH MY GOD STELLA & DOT I AM DISGUSTED. I just started repping for Stella & Dot and did see they have a “Breast Cancer Awareness” line in rose gold (quite lovely, actually) with proceeds going to a charity called Bright Pink that is not yet ranked on Charity Navigator. A little shady but who knows, maybe it’s good. Then today I received a stylist email from them that contains the following phrase:

Here’s how Director, Annette Ultis, is following the 3 steps of prospecting using Breast Cancer Awareness to get her $1000!

First of all, way too many commas. And then, why not just say what you mean, gals? “Here’s how Director Annette Ultis is shilling our goods by exploiting people’s good nature and guilt for her (and our) profit!”

Absolutely abhorrent. Even though I have JUST invested in this company, I now have to consider if I want to continue working with them. They were supposedly founded by women for women, and really try to cultivate that “we’re all empowering each other” feeling, which has been a little shellacked but otherwise nice. This, however, is reprehensible. I replied and cc’ed my lead and will see how they reply, but I am feeling very betrayed and angry.

It’s funny because till now I have been very chill about Pinktober and pinkwashing – it happens, it’s the way it is, it’s not worth getting my nose all out of joint over. Thanks, S&D, for changing that for me. Grrr.

Anyhow. Feel free to join my walk team or make a donation to the ACS, which has PERSONALLY HELPED ME and other women I know with breast cancer, here: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/katejig

Beyond that, buyer beware. Check your charities and be sure the company you’re supporting is in it to help people – not just in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

 

One Year Later – Cancerversary Post

September 11th was my one-year cancerversary. (pause for applause)

I don’t really know how I feel. And I don’t even know what I’ve covered before and I don’t feel like going back and looking so I’m just going to start fresh here. Some of the things I say might be repeats – just take it that I still feel the same, as opposed to me repeating myself.

Well, first, I had my first post-treatment mammogram yesterday. When I had my pre-treatment mammogram, it was nbd. I mean it wasn’t something I’d choose to do, it didn’t feel good, but it wasn’t awful.

Yesterday was awful.

I don’t know why and I haven’t yet googled it, but the mammo on my right breast (RB, or Ruby as she came to be known) was excruciating. It didn’t help that it had to be done at three different angles and then twice more with a magnifying lens. If you haven’t had a mammo, you probably only have a vague idea about what it entails. Essentially she took a shot of each breast with me sitting and facing the machine, one boob at a time smashed between a plastic tray and a metal tray, which are pressed together by a machine and then given a final hand crank. I then stood for all of the remaining shots, which also involved smashing. By the final shot, which was the very most painful, I started feeling nauseated. As soon as the shot was over I sat down and put my head between my legs so I didn’t pass out. Then I got all whiny and emotional and why me for a second and started to cry before I glanced at the People magazine I had been reading on the counter, which was open to a blurb about how the remains of an 11-year-old kid who’d been abducted at gun point 27 years ago had finally been found. And suddenly I realized breast cancer is honestly far from the worst thing that could happen to me.

Something I know I haven’t touched on before now is that my period came back that one time, but hasn’t returned since. The hot flashes came back with a vengeance and I definitely experienced some real sadness, verging on depression, as a result of the way my body has been affected. It’s hard because the symptoms I continue to experience aren’t from cancer, but from chemotherapy and/or radiation – I had no symptoms from cancer. So there are times when I think, maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t found it. Maybe I should have just let nature take its course and allowed the cancer to do what it was going to do. Of course that’s absurd, but sometimes the physical remnants of the treatment make me a little absurd.

I do wish they had prepared me better for what to expect after, but I suppose that would probably drastically reduce the number of people who would be willing to go through treatment, thus drastically reducing survivorship. My last chemo was March 30, so my 6-months out date will be September 30th – but if you’re really counting when that chemo was totally finished, probably more like mid-October. Six months is significant because the general consensus is that all chemo-related symptoms should resolve between six months and a year post chemo.

Symptoms I continue to struggle with include sore hips, knees, and back, stiffness after sitting, swollen, painful hands and trigger finger in the morning, hot flashes and loss of fertility, digestive issues (enough said), and of course the aforementioned tender right breast. I also have soreness and scar tissue buildup at my port incision site and also along where the catheter was so that when I stretch my head back it looks like the catheter is actually still in my neck.

All these things may sound trivial on their own, but when combined, they have presented a difficult hurdle for me. I was very strong and (I thought) healthy prior to my diagnosis and treatment, so to go from a mom who could do everything with her kids to a mom who struggles to go from sitting to standing has been a real blow. And funny enough, HAHA, I left loss of mental acuity and ability to plan and organize out in the paragraph above because I thought that was finally resolving, but AS I AM TYPING THIS my therapist just called because I was supposed to be at her office at 2 and it’s now quarter past – I completely forgot. So yeah, safe to say my brain is still being affected.

This has been an incredibly whiny post and for that I apologize. I guess the crux of what I am getting at is this: yeah, it’s over, but it’s not OVER. I have hair and eyelashes again, my mammogram was clear, I’m six months out of chemo, but I’m still affected every day, both physically and mentally. So I guess – just don’t expect rainbows and unending gratitude from breast cancer survivors. Getting the cancer out, getting through treatment, that’s a battle. But I’m still fighting the war, and I think in some ways I will be for the rest of my life. Just because cancer didn’t kill me (yet) doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. This is a longer road than I anticipated.

But I’m walking it, and I’m grateful to be doing so with so many people who love and support me.