The Looking Glass

The weather here in western NC has been spectacular, and it prompted a hike into the Pisgah Mountains with a wonderful friend and neighbor the other day. Once we ascended to the summit, the vista presented was looking across to Looking Glass Rock (so called due to the reflective quality of the rock face that appears mirror-like).

It humbles one to travel through these primitive forests and pathways that almost seem long abandoned, but in reality, quite used by the locals and tourists who come to the Asheville area.

As one climbs through networks of steep rooted pathways and rhododendron forests and tunnels (and crosses numerous brooks and streams!), it focuses thought on the beauty of life.  It also reminds me that my body requires much more exercise and recovery post-surgery!

But the one moment that gave pause, is gazing across at Looking Glass Rock.  And then once home again – thinking upon it and reflecting…. always time for reflection.

I’ve been battling with lower back pain since November.  As a result, I’ve begun stretching routines and yoga….something I should have done long ago.  My thoughts shift to my sister, and my hope that she is recovering from her surgery and life’s twists and turns…. and to my friends, with cancer, with knee replacement surgery, with rotate cuff surgery…. so much of the physical world that wishes to snatch our peace away….

I was viewing a website by another BC survivor and she had a wonderful idea.  Also on Tamoxifen, she decided to place a pebble in a cup (from the larger pile for the total 5 years) for every bottle of pills refilled…. I love it….but a handful of pebbles is sort of anti-climatic.  I think I’ll place silver dollars in a cup.  I calculate that if each bottle holds 90 pills, then 5 years worth is 20 bottles.  At two silver dollars per bottle refill, that should give me enough to reward myself with a lovely massage!  Its also a great visual tracking system!

Next week, I celebrate another birthday…and I am so thankful to do so.


Lymph Node Advancement

This is awesome news.  As a result of being identified with breast cancer, a lymph node (sentinel node) test is required to determine spread.  Half the time ( and in my case), it is negative..but “modern medicine” has now taken a patient and added a new potential illness for the rest of their lives – Lymphedema.  And thats not a joke to deal with.

So it is with great happiness that research is finding a way to make this process less barbaric and detrimental.  Although too late for me, it is a wonderful breakthrough that will hopefully change the procedure to be less invasive.

In even more exciting news, researchers at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the University of Georgia (UGA) have developed a vaccine that dramatically reduces tumors in a mouse model that mimics 90 percent of human breast and pancreatic cancer cases – including those that are resistant to common treatments.

The vaccine, described this week in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(1), reveals a promising new strategy for treating cancers that share the same distinct carbohydrate signature, including ovarian and colorectal cancers.   If all goes well, phase I clinical trials to test the safety of the vaccine could begin by late 2013.

Progress to finally fight cancer and win!

(not to belittle this news, but I just find the portrayl of super-heroes to be amusing.  Here, Cruz’s sister and secret member of Simeon’s Elite Four. Has a Fragment that lets her increase the speed of molecules in the air around her, generating large amounts of heat and can make things explode by touch. )

The Battle we didn’t choose

The human experience is just that – human.  Unfortunately, suffering and illness is a part of that.  If we are extremely lucky, we never need to experience much of that side of the coin…. we don’t need to sample ALL of life’s experiences to say we lived.  No one, not one single human being on this earth, ever has said “gee, wish I could have cancer”.

A beautiful website documents through black and white photos, a life lost and her journey.  Be warned, you will most likely shed a tear.  Powerful and poignant.  We never know what is around the corner.  So I once again urge you, my dear family, friends and supporters, to live each day.  Don’t re-live negative experiences because that makes them present and you give up the happiness you might have chosen instead….sort of like a V8.

TransVaginal UltraSound

Ok,  I came across this and thought it was too funny not to use – A Vaginal wedding gown!  So this is my segway into the world of managing life after breast cancer.  With Tamoxifen, one of the nasty side effects could be uterine cancer (nice, eh? reduce one/create a new one?)  Anyway, as anyone who has ever watched the TV series “Scrubs” knows…Elliott referred to a women’s nether regions as a Virgingo, unwilling to say the word… so thats what I’ll use – because its sorta fun.

In order to manage or at least get a ‘heads up’ on something that could be very bad (uterine cancer), it is important to get a baseline and monitor.   That said, I have an appointment later this month for my first (probably have this annually for the next 5 years).  What is a transvaginal ultrasound you ask?  And is it like ‘transgender’ or ‘transvestite’ or ‘transgression’?… well, no…. but it does have to do with sexual parts since the ultrasound probes the wall of the uterus.

During a transvaginal ultrasound, a tubular probe is inserted into the vaginal canal. The probe is completely covered by a lubricated condom. The probe can be rotated slightly to obtain close contact images of the uterus and ovaries.

The uterus and ovaries may be evaluated to examine abnormal pelvic growths and to determine the source of painful cramps or other pain in the pelvic area, unexplained vaginal bleeding or lack of menstrual flow.  In my case, I already have a benchmark of the thickness of the wall of my uterus, so if the worst occurs over time, they will see a thickening of the uterus tissue wall and probably a hysterectomy will ensue.

I’m so done with hospitals and procedures, but just like getting breast cancer wasn’t a choice – other illnesses are not as well….and being on top of the game will give me the best odds to take care of it before it kills me (bluntly put) should it happen.

To dull the memory of this test in my mind, I’ll go to an evening kayak pool session to have fun….not that it will be painful, but I view it as feeling like an enema in the virgingo…. maybe a space alien sorta thing, ya know?  Something I’d like to forget about after the event – at least for 364 more days……




Active Healing

It’s been weeks now…and somedays my back felt a little better … somedays worse.  I adapted a loving, slow approach to helping my body heal (in my case, allowing my hip to rotate back in position) by gentle yoga stretches lasting no more than 5 minutes for a few poses, about 4 times a day.

After experiencing some success, I tried attending a yoga/pilates class. Ooops.. way too aggressive…. back to pain for a couple of days..and when I talk pain, it literally hurt whenever I was in a seated position – especially in the Subaru bucket seat.

So gradually, with a little Chi Kong exercise and a little yoga, my back is healing.  Today I saw the chiropractor and got another adjustment.  I found my hip flexors very very tight and will add some gentle stretches there.

I’m encouraged!  I truly believe I will be rolling my kayak again in no time, pain-free.

PS – with any activity and chiropractor work, make sure you hydrate more often.  Again, thank you to everyone who responded – both here and outside the blog.  I’m so thankful I have your support and caring.

Is it real?

“Is it real, or is it memorex”? In October, it was all about my boobies (well, actually July-October to be exact).. now I’ve been experiencing constant low back pain for months.  The chiropractor saw a mis-alignment and 2 sessions later, I’m still very very sore and in pain.  Stretching, yoga and icing (brrr) is now a part of my life.  With a new kayak coming in a month or two, my thoughts of course go to will I be able to enjoy it!

So “back” to the question – is this real, or is it a side effect of the Tamoxifen causing me muscle and bone ache.  When I look at forums, I view posts like the following:

“I am on my 5th year of taking tamoxifen.  I have had a back ache for over two years.  I have told my oncologist and she says it is soft tissue pain.  I have not had a bone scan, mri or any other type of test, just the regular blood tests every 6 months.  I wouldn’t call it a pain in my back, it just aches, especially if I have been sitting down or laying down for a while.”

…and worse… so, the question is, why does this occur and what can be done?  I’m thinking acupuncture may help…. someone posted a large quantity of omega-3…so maybe fish oil too…..

Any suggestions or thoughts out there??  Please comment.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.