It's been a week since I last blogged, so I'm feeling like I should write something here, but I'm not sure what to say.
My fatigue has decreased - I can stay up late again, and sometimes I now only sleep for 7.5 or 8 hours, instead of 9! This weekend, I was exhausted, but that was due to working 27 hours in 3 days. (Which I know is normal to so many people, but not to ME, at this point in my life.) So of COURSE I was tired from that! But I could definitely feel that it was the 'overworked' fatigue, which is familiar to me, not the heavy fatigue from radiation. I can say with confidence that I'm healing very well from the radiation! My skin is now tan instead of pink/burned, and rather splotchy because it's peeling. I'm still using lots of aloe. And it doesn't hurt!
I worked too much this weekend. I just started this new job that's 19 hours one weekend per month, and in theory, this is great for me, because my other work is usually only on weekdays so I am not overtaxed by this set-up. I like the work, and I like being able to earn a big chunk of money in just one weekend and then having all of my other weekends free! But this weekend I took on an extra assignment from my other job, too, and also spent my "break" helping my former roommate clean our former apartment to increase the chances of my former landlord giving me at least some of my security deposit money back. So, combined, it was TOO MUCH for one weekend!!! But the fact that I was even able to do it showed me that I really have recovered from radiation, woohoo!
This morning, I slept in, and then, to reward myself for getting through my marathon weekend of work, I took myself out for brunch! I went ALL OUT! I had a spinach/onion/mushroom/cheese omelet with sour cream and olives, hash browns, sunflower wheat toast, a short stack of blueberry pancakes with butter and VT maple syrup, and coffee! The waitress thought I was done ordering after I said the omelet part and started to turn to leave, but I kept going with, "And I will also have..." She grinned and said, "You go, girl!!" at the end of my list, haha!! Okay, no, I did not really eat all of that food. About a third of it is in a box in the fridge right now. And I've been too full to eat a single thing since that brunch 8 hours ago! But oh it was so fun! (I think my body needs tons of food/nutrients right now to fuel the healing process. :))
I have to say, I'm in a strange place right now and don't know how to describe it. I thought that when cancer treatments were over, it would be this clearly-defined event, like, "WHEW, glad that's over, now I can go back to my life!" But it doesn't feel like that at all. Radiation's over, and that's a HUGE milestone which I'm thrilled about, but is that all it takes to automatically make me go from "cancer patient" to "cancer survivor"? Am I now "cancer-free"? But who's to say I wasn't "cancer-free" right after surgery, or after my 9th radiation treatment, or my 23rd? It's all quite confusing. I'm glad that I can used the past tense now and say "I had breast cancer," but at the same time, it's the same phrase that a person who had breast cancer 17 years ago can say, whereas it feels like just 5 minutes ago that I had breast cancer. It doesn't feel like it's "over," or at least, not as clearly or as much as I THOUGHT it would at this point. Partly it's because my datebook is still cluttered with doctor appointments. I'm seeing my naturopath on Friday, then my oncologist will put me on Tamoxifen the first week of June, and I have a thermogram a couple weeks after that, followed by a check-up with the radiation oncologist (and Lulu ;)) a week or so after that, and a check-up with my surgeon in early Sept (probably with more imaging tests?), and probably at least one more visit with my oncologist before then, etc. So I really don't have this "YAY, IT'S OVER! LET'S HAVE A PARTY!" feeling.
On the other hand, I AM returning to my "normal life" in many ways now (or rather, a new normal), and I looooove having the whole month of May to not have to go to the cancer center at ALL. I think it's the first time in 6 months that I've had more than a couple weeks without needing to go to the hospital for something. Wow, that blows my mind. I mean, the fact that I spent HALF A YEAR being a regular at the hospital. Really?? Ultrasound, biopsy, mammogram, MRI, chest X-ray, blood work, meeting with surgeon, more mammogram, surgery, surgery, check-up with surgeon, thermogram, consult with oncologist, consult with radiation oncologist, surgery, check-up with surgeon, 33 radiation treatments, more blood draws, more thermography, more oncology. All of that for 6 straight months. It seems so...not like my life!!
Six months of having my breast poked, squished, cut, sewn, injected with things, stuck with wires, compressed between mammography plates, looked at, discussed, photographed, tattooed, irradiated, washed, stuck with stickers, drawn on with Sharpies, scanned, analyzed, by dozens of strangers. Thank the gods THAT IS OVER!!! (Mostly.)
But, Tamoxifen looms. It's not so much that I'm "done with treatment," it's that I'm done with the local treatment and am moving on to the systemic treatment. That is, surgery and radiation were treatments done only to my breast. This daily Tamoxifen pill is going to effect my entire system/body. I don't yet know what this will be like and I'm getting nervous about it. It's possible that I won't experience any side effects at all, and I will just feel like myself and everything will be great! But this is unlikely. The other extreme is that I could basically feel like I'm in menopause, with hot flashes, nausea & vomiting, vaginal problems, fatigue, depression, headaches, etc. This, too, is unlikely. But there is no way to know except to just start taking the stupid daily Tamoxifen pill and see what happens. Probably I won't be totally miserable or totally fine; it will be somewhere in the middle. The not knowing is driving me crazy....when I let myself think about it. Mostly, I haven't been! I've been working, unpacking and settling into my new home (apartment shared with friends!), reading lots of library books, playing on the Internet, walking in the sunshine, drinking tons of coffeeshop coffee, spending time with friends, watching Buffy, journaling, making Michfest plans, and all of that good stuff. I don't WANT to be researching Tamoxifen and compiling a list of questions to ask my oncologist about it in preparation for our June appointment...the cancer books are collecting dust on my bookshelf while I instead read interesting and enjoyable books. Somehow I need to keep working on finding a balance, neither obsessing over the cancer stuff nor ignoring it. Maybe one reason I haven't been blogging much is 'cause I'd rather just ignore it right now. I want to just spend this one month without having to focus on the cancer treatments, you know? Radiation's over, and Tamoxifen hasn't begun. Why can't it just stay May forever?