Sunday, November 11, 2007

Plus ça change...

Something about the change in seasons has me really thinking about how this year feels different from last.

I have hair, for one thing. This past weekend, many of my friends and colleagues were at the Wharton Junior Faculty conference, for Organizational Behavior professors. Last year, I spoke at that conference, wearing a wig because my glorified stubble was still just a little not-ready-for-prime-time. I really thought I'd have hair down to my shoulders by now--I know my hair's always been quite shy and retiring, but I thought it could at least grow... In any case, it took a long time, but I've graduated from baby clips and air-drying to toddler clips and blow-drying, and sometimes it actually gets in my eyes...amazing.

Then there's energy. These days, I can pretty easily go out for 5+ hours of beach volleyball, if the sunlight is cooperating. I've never been a runner, but today I ran with Kibble for about a mile in addition to our mile-plus walk, and felt great.

During chemo, energy was a weird, weird thing. Ordinarily, I think of energy as depleting somewhat the way a bathtub drains--slowly, steadily. But during chemo, it was as if the bottom of the bathtub suddenly vanished, and all that water just gushed down at once. One minute, fine. The next minute--empty. A while after all my treatment ended, we went out for a walk and, about 5 minutes into it, I had to sit on someone's wall until I could summon the strength just to get back home. That was the last time the "emptying" happened, but still for a long time I got tired quickly, had fewer resources, just couldn't push through at those times when I needed to.

As mentioned in a recent post, surgery gave me a numb armpit and arm; taxol gave me burning feet. Adriamycin gave me awful nausea, and chemo in general gave me heartburn, which lasted until the first day of my diet, whereupon it magically disappeared. I had fuzzy thinking and lost words, lost periods, altered sense of smell and taste. I even had a hot flash or two.

Today, every single bit of that is gone. My hormonal system is still reeling, I think, but the rest of me is pretty much back. Thanks to diet and exercise, I'm in better shape than before.

Obviously, no one can be sure that cancer won't come back. But for now, I really want to report to anyone still going through treatment (or just finished) that you do get your life back. Going through the whole breast cancer Experience really sucks and is scary. But from this point of view, looking back, that one sucky year has not taken over my life. I hope it helps someone out there to know that. Just hang in there!!


Anonymous said...

What a great gal you are! What an absolutely incredible gal!

laurie said...

Oh the side effects!

My first 6 rounds of chemo were BRUTAL. I didn't get the burning feet (perhaps because I was on Taxotere not Taxol) but I had LOTS of hot flashes (and I was only 38!) and had to get up at least once every night to change my sleep-shirt because of night sweats. And the surgery? My arm pit and some of my chest are still numb!

One of the nice (!) things about the regimen I'm currently on - fewer side effects, I bounce back more quickly (treatment Tuesday, out walking the dog by Saturday) and I still have hair!

Speaking of hair, I had to laugh at this "I really thought I'd have hair down to my shoulders right now." Me too! My hair used to grow like gangbusters but now, 16 months after the end of Adriamycin...I feel so happy when someone calls me shaggy.

And finally (boy I am going on today...) I want to say that you are amazing. 5+ hours of beach volley ball?!! I was a runner before cancer but now I satisfy myself with long (and fast) walks with my pooch (I love the name Kibble, by the way). Exercise is truly a panacea - for anyone. I love that you are such a strong, fit and healthy cancer survivor.

And, OK I lied. One more thing. What did you do around diet? I have gained twenty-five pounds that I would like to drop, while being conscious of eating well. Anything you'd like to share?

JessinPink said...

Keep staying strong and positive Jenny, and as long as you've got the energy, defintely keep it active and healthy =)

I am working as a community ambassador with Pantene Beautiful Lengths and Million Inch Chain. Together we are trying to gather 1 million inches of hair and turn them into wigs. We plan on providing these wigs free of charge to women affected by chemo related hair loss. For a lot of women that lose their to cancer treatment, it can be very extremely difficult to deal with. Our ultimate goal is to support these women in their difficult struggle by providing them with the confidence boost they may need.

I'm asking if any women out there could please help out by donating to this very worthy cause. You can either donate your hair, or pledge to donate your hair at a later time. If you would like more information please visit this website.

Jenny said...

Jess--I had several friends who donated their hair while I was getting treatment. They were kind enough to record that it was in my honor--and I definitely felt honored.

Laurie--I actually felt my longest, lowest hair tickle my shoulders yesterday! And tonight I got a massage, and the therapist kept having to brush my hair out of her way as she worked on my neck and shoulders. I can't tell you how thrilling all that has been.

As for diet, I saw a nutritionist and got a pretty regimented plan, which was not just a "diet" but really an overhaul of my eating, to focus not only on losing weight but also on foods to keep me as healthy as possible. I keep meaning to post in more specifics--I promise to do that very soon. But in short: very high fiber (30+ g per day), low fat (30- g per day), low calorie, and as close to nature as possible. In practice, it means a bran cereal in the AM with almond milk, salad with fish (esp salmon salad) at lunch (tuna only once a week or less, b/c of mercury), and a dinner that has about 4 oz of fish or tofu or beans, and then heaps of veggies. I'll often eat a pound of broccoli and a pound of asparagus and then some more veggies, all in one sitting. Everything grilled, steamed, broiled, or cooked in a pan with broth instead of oil.

It was a hard adjustment at first but now it's very easy to keep up. And it helped SO much with how I felt.

Anyway, as I said--more specifics soon! Hope you are well. :-)

Anonymous said...

Welcome back to closer to where you were before the C word was spoken. You are indeed beautiful, inside and outside--cephalocaudally and proximodistally! Love you.