jenny's belly

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

1 year

We quietly passed my one-year since diagnosis, which was July 22nd. I didn't celebrate, but definitely marked the occasion. It both feels like it just happened, and also like its always been this way. I had a doctor say to me yesterday, "This was probably your toughest year, huh?" Well, yes, unless you count that year I had a really hard trigonometry test.

There's a 16 year old in the news right now who decided he doesn't want to go through chemotherapy anymore, but the courts are forcing him. I think it must be because the judge in his case sees enough reason for him to go through treatments. Like, maybe doctors have good reason that he'd survive. I can understand some people who have been through years and years of treatments who decide they just don't want to continue anymore. But this kid was diagnosed last year, and said he doesn't want to continue because he would throw up and didn't feel well. Um... So instead he's eating organically. That's just great. The kid is going to Mexico for his treatments. Because if I had my cancer return, I'd also go to a 3rd world country and reject years of scientific discovery. Look, there's constant nausea. Sometimes you don't think you can continue. You throw up, you have diahrreah, you're weak, you can't think straight. But you do it, just like every other patient, because its your best bet for survival.

I have a CT scan next week, then see my oncologist the following week. I also have an appointment with my gastroenterologist because I've been getting lots of pain when I eat. I'm guessing something isn't quite right and hopefully there's some kind of drug that can fix it. It really sucks to want to curl into the fetal position at work. "How are you?" "Great! owwwwww..."

So this week is my 2nd week going full-time. Its not been easy. I am really tired mid-afternoon. I don't take a lunch break away from my desk because I'm afraid I won't have the energy to continue the day. But it makes for a REALLY long day. About 2:30-3:00 I've really had it. I was able to go off my sleeping meds I have been on for a LONG time, but obviously I should probably go back on them again (it's 3:30am). I just tossed and turned and finally got up. Hopefully now that I have 2-1/2 hrs left before I have to get up again I can get some kind of sleep...

Monday, July 17, 2006

first full day

I had my first full day today. I didn't take a lunch hour and left at 3:45, so it was not really a full day. I bailed because I was a little tired and I honestly have NO IDEA how I'm going to work 9-5 later in the week.
In fact, I'm tired now so this is going to be super-short. I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your amazing support which continues to this day. I imagined once I was back to work it would all fall away, but you--my friends and family--continue to support me (and they're being really amazing at work, letting me call the shots on my schedule).
So, another full day tomorrow... probably another 3:45 departure. Maybe I should feel guilty (and I do a little) but not as much as I should.
And FYI I'm still living with the parents, but I just had my kitchen renovated last week so my kitchen stuff is in my living room and besides, the condo hasn't been cleaned in a year. These things take time...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Do You Garden?

We're coming up on my 1 year cancer diagnosis anniversary. Maybe I shouldn't celebrate, but its a day I'll never forget. I even remember I was wearing a black top and tan pants. It was sunny but not really hot. My appointment was at 2:00.

I was listening to the radio in the car with my mom this afternoon and they were doing a fund drive for children's hospital. I would never have listened to the stories except I didn't want to be rude and change the channel. I felt myself getting more and more upset as I listened to these poor kids talk about their struggles. "Yeah, this is what I went through" not feeling sorry for themselves, just being matter-of-fact about it. And though they were dealing with tumors and leukemia, things I haven't been through, I just felt so connected to them. My God, I know how they feel. Mom changed the channel just as I was about to burst into tears.

But on an up-note I started reading a fantastic book. It's a memoir in comics, right up my lane. It's called "Cancer made me a shallower person" which is such a smart-ass title I really needed to get this book. It is so perfect for me to read right now. The author is describing her trial with breast cancer, which I can't completely relate to, but I did just have a couple of laugh-out-loud moments with the book:

1. "Now I needed to figure out the etiquette of cancer announcements in the workplace (Miriam Engelberg cordially invites you to join her in reacting to her new CANCER diagnosis. Please, no gifts). Two months earlier a coworker had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was a consultant, so she opted to meet with staff members in small groups (Project Timeline: Surgery, Path Report, Radiation; Next I'd like to go around and hear each of your reactions). I wasn't the small group type so I decided to just sendout an email (To: All staff. From: Miriam. Subject: I have Breast Cancer. Also, the new intro to excel manual is finished)."
-->Some of you might remember my group email. It was the only thing I could think of! The first people I told even got the interrupted email where my blackberry sent it out before I was finished writing. That was a good one! I hadn't gotten to the part of mentioning I had cancer.

2. "I've always wanted to be one of those non-self-revealing type people... (Oh, wow! There's that woman who never talks. She's so mysterious and alluring!)"
--> Many of you may find it hard to believe I almost never talk at my current job. Really. I never get in trouble anymore for laughing too loud.
"...So I tried to restrain my tell-all tendencies (Uh-oh, here comes that woman who works at the corner store. Ok-you can do this. Just smile and say "hi"). I was not successful. (Hi, how are you? --I HAVE BREAST CANCER!) I figured I should just give up any pretense of restraint and announce it publicly. (Hello, you're on "Car Talk.")"
-->Oh, that one got me laughing! At the time, I really wanted to find a way so that everyone knew immediately that I had cancer without me having to tell them. In the same way that you can identify I'm a female with brown hair. You'd just know. I was willing to wear a shirt saying "I have cancer" if necessary. I just love the idea of calling car talk. Its a really good thing I didn't think of that back then because I just might have done it.

Anyway, I think I'm going to enjoy this book because she's very honest, sarcastic, and not at all touchy-feely. Those "smile and bear it" books and stories are just too much. They're unreadable for cancer patients and just make everyone else feel like lesser people. Right now I'm in a part of the book where she's convinced it was cheese that gave her cancer, and someone in her support group thinks it was oil painting.

I was in a class tuesday where one woman mentioned to a friend that someone she knew had breast cancer, and the second woman actually asked "Well, did she garden?" I was so dumb-struck I never did learn if gardening was a good thing or a bad thing.

Don't be stupid, you shouldn't be gardening! There are bugs out there, bugs and dirt that give you cancer!

What, you don't garden? It's the only way to AVOID cancer, stupid!

I'm thinking, well, I have gardened in the past, but I didn't really like it...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bad Idea

I had my port-a-cath flushed yesterday, which you have to do monthly if you're not getting treatment or blood tests. I've had this thing accessed a billion times. Its a double port implanted just below the skin of my left shoulder. You can easily get blood or give meds through this port and get it right into a vein without having to jab my arm. So basically its a good thing, except I don't need it anymore (yay!). I have to wait until after my next CT scan (last week of July) and then if all goes well I can schedule an appointment to have it taken out.
But as I was saying, I had it flushed yesterday, where they put a needle into each of the two ports, push saline and something else (heparin?) through it to clean out the tubing, and then I'm good to go.
I got this genius idea that I wouldn't have the nurse use the numbing spray. I've always, always used the numbing spray. The thing is, they switched to a new company and the numbing spray literally freezes the skin. And it kind of hurts. So I thought, its going to hurt either way, I might as well not use the spray. HOLY SHIT. That was a really, really bad idea. Ever watch someone stab you in the chest and feel like someone's stabbing you in the chest? I'm obviously a big baby, but we are talking all the layers of skin, I don't know why I didn't think it would hurt when she put a needle in me. I watched in horror when the first one went in. Oh, mistake! I've made a mistake! And then the second needle. OW!!!!!
And then it hurt when I was walking so I put my hand over it until I realized I must look like a complete freak (look, she's pledging allegiance to the flag). Its fine now, a day later, but I can promise you one thing, I'll never make that mistake again!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Physically stronger

I went to my brother's Ranger graduation over the weekend, and it was probably the busiest I've been in a year. On Thursday I worked half the day, got myself to the airport, sat next to a guy who wouldn't stop talking so I couldn't sleep, had a connecting flight (which I missed), had a complete freak sitting next to me so I wouldn't dare sleep, and got into Atlanta at 9:30. And then I had to rent a car and drive 100 miles to the hotel west of no-one-goes-there-Georgia. But I did it!
I feel like I really accomplished something too. I need to prove to myself sometimes that I'm okay. I can do these things which I used to take for granted but now seem almost impossible.
While I'm mentally still off, I really think physically I can handle things. My body amazed me during cancer treatment with its ability to put up with more than my brain thought we could deal with... and its surprising me again by having actually paid attention to my physical therapy and gym visits by getting stronger! Now if only my brain would wake up...