Moving Back into Life

My blog posts have been less frequent in 2011.

It was this time a year ago when I began to cope with a diagnosis of cancer.

They tell me I’m cancer free right now. But every morning I swallow a small white pill that my oncologist prescribed to block estrogen from being absorbed in my body.

I have been led to believe the small white pill protects me from ill health.

Yet I don’t seem to find comfort in the tiny pill. And every day it reminds me that my body made a space for cancer. It did that without my permission.

When I began coping with the diagnosis, I floated in denial for quite some time.

I thought about what I needed to do to rid myself of the evil cells. And I moved through each of the steps to eradicate the disease.

My cancer was discovered through my regular mammogram. At first I was sure nothing was wrong except the radiologist’s eyes. And so I scheduled a second opinion.

Moving through those nights and days, I tried not to think about worse case scenarios. And yet I contacted a newspaper broker as I thought about what might happen.

The reason I chose a bilateral mastectomy is that I never wanted to experience this sense of helplessness again.

It was a good choice. The pathologists at Faulkner Hospital found tiny cancer cells in the breast was hadn’t shown problems.

As my oncologist said, the second cancer was so small, it might not have ever become what he called a “real cancer.” One of those was enough for me.

Breast cancer affected my grandmother and aunt. It’s shadow has always touched my memories.

And now I have my own experience and I’ve moved from denial, anger and compromise into acceptance. I know I skipped the depression stage. Perhaps I am just starting to experience that part.

I haven’t wanted to think about my cancer. And yet there it is every day as  I look in the mirror and notice that my body is shaped like a plump pear. I think about escaping cancer as I swallow the estrogen-blocking pill. I haven’t had any trouble remembering to take the pill, unlike my cholestrol drug.

I think about cancer as I move through the food market, purchasing only organic foods, avoiding water in plastic bottles.

My cancer, which has been cut out of my body, defines much of what I do these days.

I sit and watch the water flow by the windows of my life. I smile with friends. I sleep more. I plan to continue flooding my life with joy and beauty.

It seems to be time to move beyond thinking about cancer. It is time to move back into life. I want to erase the dis-ease. But the truth is I am grateful cancer came and brought me the realization I am a time-limited being. I need to make the most of all the minutes.

Ready to Leave AOL

patd2011.jpg(Photo by Sage Brousseau)

This week I began the process of leaving AOL.

You see I’ve been paying money to AOL for a very long time. And my own email address as well as several at my paper have been connected to the “You’ve Got Mail” people.

But more than a year ago AOL began financing a website that competes with the Milton Times website. Not that they are making inroads in the Milton market. The good news is www.miltontimes.com is generating more unique visitors than ever.

So my new email address is themiltontimes@gmail.com. Ofcourse, I’ve been using pat.desmond@miltontimes.com for several years now but almost no one ever emails me there.

I know why people use the AOL address – it’s easy to remember. I’m thinking I need to begin promoting the one with my name. It should only take about six months to make the transition.

I just have to print a batch of new business cards and run a few dozen ads in my own paper. Oh, yes and I’m planning to use a page in the Milton Phone Book to promote all the various emails and telephone extenstion at the Milton Times.

The Perils of the Ipad

Writing a blog on an Ipad isn’t as easy as I expected.

I’ve had my Ipad for six months now – I use it to check email, read books on planes and play solitaire.

I am addicted to solitaire these days.

But writing, unless I use the Notes app, is tricky. The cursor doesn’t move from one field to another the way I expect.

Checking my email is simple. But I do need a laptop to write.

Rearranging My Life

Life after cancer should be different from the way it was before.

I’ve been living a day at a time for several decades, trying to appreciate each experience as it happens.

But I still find myself moving through days automatically. Heading from one well known place to another, both online and in reality.

Life after cancer needs to be more mindful.

If I am sitting at my computer, typing and watching the birds, I need to be grateful for the opportunity.

I need to always think about why I have been lucky enough, or blessed enough, to survive my cancer.

Each day is a gift.

Good News It Would Seem

My horoscope for today said, “Thursday, Even if your life seems to be unfolding as planned, you still aren’t sure that you should trust the good news. Although you don’t want to be hurt by what you discover now, you might overcompensate today by gathering all the information you can find. Unfortunately, you don’t need any more data; just make a choice and then take a few healthy steps in the direction you want to go.”

OK, the good news came from my medical oncologist. No chemo, no radiation.

My chances of a recurrence – if I do not take Arimidex, which prohibits estrogen production- is 3%. If I do take the pills, my chance for recurrence of my cancer drops to 1.5%.

Anyway my medical oncologist is getting a bit more information from my primary care doctor before deciding if he thinks I should try the pills. “Try the pills” is the important  phrase here.

He and I agree that quality of life is important.

Good news, I am not a candidate for tamoxifen or other pills with a list of lengthy possible side effects.

No I didn’t say there were no possible side effects of Arimidex.  There is a list but the worst item on the list is loss of bone density.  It’s up to the doctors to figure out my bone density issues. And they are the people who have the ability to assess my cancer risk.

I need to say I didn’t feel ill at all before my operation. But I believed the doctors, (especially after I got a second opinion.)

I haven’t felt totally well since the surgery. But the cancer is gone, my lymph nodes were cancer free.

Oh, ever since scheduling the surgery, I’ve been reading material on breast cancer.  Does that sound like overcompensating?

I keep the study time to a limited dose. It’s part of my own prescription for healing.

Beginning to Work

It’s not that I’m ready to go back to work… but the deadline for filing my corporate tax forms is March 15.

So I have managed to work through the maze of numbers and filed both my federal and state tax forms.

Filing taxes is not good for my health – but it is obviously necessary.

I haven’t done my personal taxes – but they aren’t due until April.

Tonight I am getting together with some friends, hoping the healing energy of friendship will wash away the negative energy caused by dealing with financial information.

It’s all about balance.

Many Gifts

A few hours ago I received a card from one of my high school classmates who pointed out a coincidence between the journey I have begun as I deal with cancer and a similar path he found himself on about five years ago.

The simple story he offered is one of hope. His wife is a survivor of breast cancer. And today, so am I.

These stories about people I know, their wives, their sisters, their friends, are gifts that help me heal.

Nearly Pain-free

My drug-induced haze disappeared today along with the residual pain of my operation.

The slow draining wounds are healing the way they are meant to heal and I am feeling empowered. The nurse practitioner took the plastic tubing away from my fragile chest and left me feeling practically well.

I meet with my surgeon next week to go over next steps but I’ve gotten through the clearing away stage.

My grandchildren giggle two rooms away while I listen to music to balance my chakras, hoping the darkness will disappear.

I still haven’t read last week’s issue of the Milton Times. I don’t know what the lead story is in the issue out today.

But I don’t hurt. And I’ve had a chance to be with people who matter to me. It’s been a good day.

Better A Day At A Time

My energy hasn’t been electric this week.

It’s been a week since my operation – each day I recover a bit more strength.

My visiting nurse was at my home today with a student shadow. The world is a small place. My nurse knows Ed Baker. She met him a few years ago while he was doing some of his philanthropic work.

The student shadow is from Curry College.

The three of us talked for a time about my degree of pain – which on a 1-10 schedule, I rate as three about a half hour before taking medication. (Truthfully, I expected a great deal of pain and much of the time I’ve been pain-free.)

Since I began telling people about my diagnosis and plans for treatment I’ve heard many stories from friends and acquaintenances about their own cancer stories. I don’t have enough energy to complete more than small pieces of my story.

But each day all that improves.

Full Disclosure

The final report from radiology came in late yesterday.

There was a small piece of cancer in my left breast – something unexpected.

So while I am still thinking I may be cancer free because of the bilateral surgery, I know I need to bring more energy to my recovery.

My son is suggesting organic brocoli sprouts. I don’t think it could hurt to try them.

It’s been more than 5 hours since my last pain pill. I’m working towards healing without pain. I think that’s the approach that will work best for me.

I’m opposed to pain. But I know that pain leads to growth.

Truly I think I’ve grown quite enough.