Midlife necessities

Midlife necessities
Midlife necessities

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Can Take Care of Yourself AND Enjoy Life

Gabby and I went to our first event, and Gus accompanied us. We joined Chris and Holly at our dear family friends' wedding. Jeremy and Emily were married in a lovely and very personal ceremony on Saturday afternoon in San Clemente. The reception was super fun, with a delicious dinner, sweet and funny toasts, and as much dancing as I could handle (always love that cupid shuffle!). So blessed to be able to share in the Wise family's special day!

Holly, Gabby and I whooping it up!

Sunday was a recovery day. Happily I made it to church, though, and after hugging seven people without asking anyone if they were sick, I plopped myself down next to my two bodyguards, Penny and Sandy B., and they took care of me during the rest of the service! Several people told me that they pray for me daily, Shelly bought me a cute and yummy sugar cookie, Sylvia reminded me that the girls have my upcoming bunco food handled, Sandy got herself scheduled for my next chemo day, and Louise booked herself to bring me a meal. I think my church family is awesome!

Home for the rest of the day for football and Louise's homemade tortilla soup. She brought all the fixins to go with it, along with a chocolate silk pie and some  pumpkiny goodies. So sweet of her! Made me feel better after the Giants loss.

Monday November 10, Chemo #4. Holly picked me up and dropped off everything for a carne asada dinner! What a nice surprise! Plus homemade banana bread and a Starbucks PSL. Off to Kaiser for my blood draw and dressing change with Cora. My friends and family find the blood draw through Pixie, my catheter, facinating. Had omelets for brunch, then back to Kaiser for the last of the first chemo regimen! The AC part of the ACT is done! No more red devil! Woohoo!

Rowena was my nurse for the first time. All my nurses have been great, but she's my new favorite. She was really funny and fun, and also very informative, explaining all kinds of things about my treatment and how I need to take care of myself and how we are a team to get me well. Of course we had Kimmy with us, but the funny thing is, Holly and I never even looked in her! We didn't read one magazine, or play one game, we just enjoyed talking the entire time! And the two and a half hours flew by!

Holly and I at Kaiser, a bit more subdued!

And now for some advice for you women, and the women in your life (and any human actually). The healthier you are, the better. I feel like I was reasonably healthy going into this cancer thing. Sure I could have been healthier, I could have been in better shape, but I was not a couch potato and I ate a balanced, nutritious diet. And I believe it has helped. Walking is fantastic exercise, and brisk walking is best for cardio. I enjoy getting outside to do it, but if you like a treadmill, do that!  If you have a gym membership, use it! If you don't, dance around the house! Take the stairs! Anything you can do to add activity to your lifestyle. We also need to stretch our bodies (do yoga or just stretch) and build our strength (arm weights, a full workout or on the couch while watching tv). A healthy lifestyle may reduce your chances of getting breast cancer, and if you do get it, I believe you will handle it better.

Next, know your breast cancer risk. Learn about your family history, and also keep in mind that while family history is important, it isn't always an indicator (as I discovered). 

Know your normal. Familiarize yourself with what your breasts are like and pay attention to any signs of change. Look at yourself in the mirror, do regular self exams. And if you have any gut feelings that something isn't right, pay attention to your intuition and don't wait to have it checked out. I have dense breast tissue which makes it difficult to see in a normal mammogram. I had an ultrasound back in 2012 because they thought they saw something and they ended up clearing me. Then last year there was no additional screening recommended beyond my regular mammogram, even though I showed them my ultrasound films. But my surgeon said I had the tumor for five years! Maybe I should have insisted on a second mammo or ultrasound. I also noticed a change in my nipple early this past spring. I knew it was a change, but I didn't have health insurance at the time. I did bring it up to my primary doctor, who wasn't concerned, saying breast changes during menopause were common. After I was diagnosed, I asked my surgeon about it, and he said it could have been an indicator of the breast cancer or maybe not. But at least it was something to pay attention to.

Know when to get screened. You should start clinical breast exams at age 20, and mammograms at 40. If you have family history, tell your doctor. You need to know who had breast cancer, how old they were when diagnosed, and their age if they died from it. If you have a family history, ask your doctor when you should start having mammograms, and if you don't like the answer and want one, insist upon it. Early detection is key to fighting this disease if you get it, and I pray that none of you will.

For me, for now, through everything, life is good.

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