Running – Just Do It!

During the rehab program through Toronto Rehab UHN I had worked up to a 45 min walk jog from a 30 min walk. This was about 6-8 months ago. I continued after that, mind you not as consistently as I would have liked but nonetheless I tried to stick with it. I had issues with my foot so had to switch to the elliptical which I hated. So did it until I felt I could jog again. The weather started to finally get a little better in May and I started jogging outside. Loved it!! I was doing a walk/jog at 2:1 intervals. Jogging for me is a stress reliever and it mentally strengthens me, it always has. Not to mention the physical benefits are amazing! This is something I started doing over 20 years ago and always loved it! 

About 8 weeks ago I went out for my walk jog as usual and as soon as I started the first jogging interval my knees were in so much pain?! I had to stop and walk but I struggled through the next 30 minutes with the jogging part being very slow and light. I came home completely distraught. What was happening??? I know tamoxifen causes joint pain and I’ve had it since I started the medication 18 months ago but it was never this bad. I called my oncologist but we weren’t able to connect. I finally spoke to her a few weeks later when I actually had my 3 month appointment. There isn’t a whole lot she was able to do. She did say that I could try the Glucosamine … which I’ve been taking. It usually takes a few weeks to see any improvement. 

I’m not sure how or why but a couple of weeks ago the joint pain seemed a bit better?! I decided to try the walk/jog and was able to do 30 mins no problem. I was sooo happy!!! I’ve been able to continue. So grateful for that.  It’s great exercise and mentally it helps me quite a bit. There are days I don’t feel like it but I tell myself to stop thinking and JUST DO IT! Afterwards I always feel amazing! 😊

Do What You Love!!

It’s common for a person who has had a life threatening experience to think about their mortality and reflect on their life … past, present and future. I thought about all the mistakes I made, all the things I wish I had done differently and all the things I haven’t done that I want to do. I guess that’s usually what happens. I then consciously made an effort to think about my accomplishments, the good things I have done and the things in my life that have made me happy. It’s funny how that came second. I guess it’s because there’s still time to do all the things I want to do but haven’t done yet. There’s time but I’ve realized that we never really know how much time so there’s almost a sense of urgency. Or at least not wanting to put things off. 

Thinking about how to make it happen. I’ve already started but it feels like there isn’t enough time. Regardless I’m going to do things one day at a time. I’ve started painting again and also traveling more. Both of those things are so relaxing and rejuvenating!! Very emotionally and mentally therapeutic. Big stress relievers! I’ve eliminated most of the stress in my life and learned to manage any little stressors. πŸ™‚ 

Then there’s my career. I’m a creative person/designer at heart and that’s what will make me truly happy. I’ve been talking about this for years but when you have a mortgage and yours is the only income you’re living on, making a drastic career change where your income will initially drop doesn’t always work. I think I can now financially manage the initial decrease in income. So I have to figure something out and just make that change. Set a timeline, some goals and make it happen! 

I want to enjoy my life. I don’t want to spend 60 hours a week working or being so exhausted that I have no time for anything else. And most importantly I need to still have time to live a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising all takes time lol. 

While taking care of my health first I want to spend my work hours doing something I’m passionate about!! I don’t have to make millions doing it just enough to be comfortable and travel of course 😊.

Life is short, do what you Love!! 

Exhausted …

I haven’t written in awhile … mainly because I’ve been busy and by the time I sit down and relax at the end of the day my brain just wants to turn off. I often think “how am I going to manage working full time when I’m so busy while not working?!” I guess I’ll figure it out when the time comes. 

After coming back from Spain I’ve been working out more. Hoping that it will help me lose some weight but no such luck. Losing weight was never so difficult! I have to remember that there are several factors at play here and it’s not because I’m not making an effort. It seems that each time I go away I gain a few pounds … It’s easy, I’m on vacation and eat whatever I want including dessert! Yummmm! And in Spain the food was soooo good. Let’s remember I’ve been away 4 times in the past year. If I gained a few pounds each time that would be right around 15 pounds. There you have it … the 15 pounds I’ve gained. In the past if I gained a few pounds, I’d lose it soon after. The losing part doesn’t seem to be happening. Nothing is balancing out. 

I started going to the gym and doing classes. It was a little challenging at first but I’m already seeing improvements. I am a teeny bit stronger than before :). I’ve been exercising 2-4 times a week and since June 1st I’ve been focusing more on eating clean. I will continue and see what happens by the end of the month. I’m not expecting to see the weight just drop since I know with me everything right now is slow. If I see even the slightest improvement I’ll be happy. I just need to know that something is happening. 

Did I mention that the joint pain in my knees has gotten worse! It’s bad enough that I’m trying to recover and also lose weight but now the joint pain is impeding my ability to exercise. I cannot do certain things, it’s too painful. So once again, I feel like I’m 80. Every time I make progress there is something else pushing me back. All of this is getting to me. I’ve been super sensitive and emotional since the joint pain worsened. Oh and in case you aren’t aware the joint pain is due to the Tamoxifen. The hot flashes have subsided and have been replaced with more joint pain. I’ll take the hot flashes, at least I just have to strip down to my tank top and I’m good. 

I’ve also been busy looking for a condo. The condo hunt is not going well. There are a lot of condos in my neighbourhood, where I’d like to stay but the nicer ones don’t come up often. That has also been a bit frustrating. If I had not hesitated and put in an offer quicker for my current place (the one I’m renting) I could have avoided the whole condo search and moving again. Moving is a pain in the ass! I’ve already moved twice in the last two years. I feel so unsettled right now. All of this is exhausting. 

Hoping that I find something soon so I can at least put that to bed. Fingers crossed. 

Take a Day or Two

After having a bit of a meltdown on Sunday from worrying about the Cancer coming back, I’m finally feeling better. Still getting over the flu but not as bad as Sunday. Although I do feel irritable and moody. It’s PMS without my period! I still get sensitive and emotional depending on what’s going on that day, that week … That moment. There are certain times that nothing bothers me and I’m relaxed and carefree, then other times I’m so sensitive and irritable. Maybe it’s certain things that bother me. Things like rudeness, selfishness, and mean nasty unkind people. I’m also bothered by people being insensitive towards me not having kids or being married. Gotta work on that though because I cannot control other people. I have to find a way to not let it bother me too much. I’m sure it will get better in time. It already has. A year ago I was a mess. It was a process accepting that I would never have children but I’m pretty much there. I still have my moments but hopefully they will become more infrequent as time goes on. 

The other thing I still sometimes struggle with is my Ex. Not struggling with getting over him, that didn’t take any time at all. It’s more that for some reason I’m still angry. Is it because I got no closure? Maybe because he lied so pathologically and hurt my parents. Or could it be that I feel that indirectly, he had me so stressed out that I didn’t pay attention to my health. Probably all of the above along with me being angry with myself for staying with him for the wrong reasons. Staying in a toxic relationship all because I wanted to have a baby. UGHHH! I really really need to LET IT GO. I’m trying and am really not sure why I’m having such a hard time but I do have to let it go somehow. AND I WILL πŸ˜‰

I read something recently stating that there is a breast cancer-stress connection. Of course more research needs to be done but I do believe there is a link. Not so much a direct correlation in terms of stress directly causing Breast Cancer but I do think and have read that stress weakens the immune system, causes cortisol to be released which is bad when consistently in the body for an extended period of time, and when we are stressed we generally don’t sleep well or take care of ourselves in terms of eating and exercise. I know I don’t. No way in hell I am ever letting that happen again! My LIFE is way too important! All the things we stress and worry about, are so not worth it. We spend time feeling miserable instead of being happy and enjoying life. Of course there will be moments but let it be a moment. Give yourself an hour or two if you’re bothered or a day or two if something is more upsetting, then after that LET IT GO AND MOVE ON. Life will be much brighter! 

Maybe I needed to write in order to help me let go. Do whatever you need to do. Yoga, meditate, write, talk, run, paint, SHOP πŸ™‚ … Whatever it is you need. 

Like NIKE says – Just do it! 

ONE YEAR Since Treatment! ALL IS GOOD!!!

March 20th was exactly one year since I completed treatment. It brought up a lot of emotions … gratitude and happiness but also sadness, and anxiety. I’m so very grateful to be alive and in remission. I recently had a CT which came out clear. I was relieved and overjoyed the day I got my results but soon after my brain started thinking too much. Maybe it was because my Mom told me about her friend’s daughter whose cancer has come back 2 years later. It wasn’t breast cancer but still it makes me think too much. How did that happen? What was her initial diagnosis and prognosis? What was the treatment she received? All of this so that I can tell myself it was different from my situation and I will survive another 20 years! Right now I am only thinking as far as August where I will be 2 years from diagnosis. With each year the chance of recurrence goes down but with breast cancer it can come back at any time. Making it through 5 years doesn’t mean that you are cured, like some other cancers. Great.

I also read again that women who exercised had a higher 10 year survival rate. I’ve started to exercise a little more but to do 3-5 hours a week is not easy when you are not 100%. I still have fatigue and I get sick every month which puts me out of commission for 7-10 days. UGH! Recovering has been slow but I am getting my energy back. I notice an increase in energy every 3 months or so. I now sleep 9.5 hours on average and 7 hours feels like I’ve slept for 4. Oh well, that’s still better than before!The fatigue is difficult for people to understand. It’s an overwhelming exhaustion that hits you like a wave. At least that’s how it is for me. I can make it through the day now but usually can’t do too much in the evening. If I have evening plans I have to nap or rest in the afternoon. My days usually have to be planned. I also have to cook earlier in the day otherwise it doesn’t happen. Thank God for my Mother!!

The thought of going back to work makes me nervous. Not because of work itself but because I don’t know how I am going to manage getting enough sleep, exercising 3-5hrs/week and preparing meals and eating healthy, all while working full time. Maybe I can request working 4 days as my permanent schedule. I would also then only get 80% of my salary but if I can manage on that then maybe it’s worth it. Going back to work is 6 months away at this point so I will evaluate how I am feeling in about 4 months.

Making it to ONE YEAR post treatment is a victory and I am going to think positive, focus on living healthy and getting to my next milestone of 2 YEARS since diagnosis. That will be August 6, 2015.

GoodLife Fitness Wellington Club – Horrible StaffΒ 

I’ve realized that people are unkind and insensitive but I guess I don’t expect it in certain situations. Today was one of those situations. I went to a Goodlife Fitness club to set up my complimentary 3 month membership. This is through their partnership with UHN’s cardiac rehab centre. I completed my 6 month rehab exercise program in January and since the weather is finally above zero, I thought it would be good to start getting out of the house more. I called head office told them about my scheduled time for the membership and assessment. She said it would be set up by Friday when I went in to the club. 

I was running late getting downtown, mainly because I was hungry so quickly prepared something before leaving. In doing so I forgot the letter from my Rehab program manager that I was to provide to set up my gym membership. I then was stuck in traffic and got there late. Parking was also a hassle because the club is right downtown. It was also cold and windy so by the time I got there I wasn’t in the cheeriest mood. The GM comes over and says that she understands that I’m trying to set up the 3 month gift membership but she has no paper trail. I said I was sorry I was running late and forgot it at home. She then kept going on about how she doesn’t know me and she can’t do anything without the paperwork and I’d have to bring it in. I asked if I could fax it and she said yes but I’d still have to come back to sign the forms. Well couldn’t I do that now??? She said without seeing the letter she couldn’t do that. Then what was the point of telling me I could fax the letter if I had to come back anyways?! I explained that coming back downtown was a hassle for me between physiotherapy, appointments and fatigue. I didn’t want to have to come all the way back downtown. It takes up most of the day for me. Most of the hours where I have the energy to do stuff. She had almost a condescending attitude and was completely insensitive! I was almost in tears (not sure why but I was). Maybe it was her being inflexible and so cold. She could have said the same thing with more understanding and sensitivity. She was speaking to me as if I was an idiot and she didn’t care if it was a lot of effort and exertion for me to come all the way back downtown. There was also an undertone of I’m trying to scam a free 3 month membership. 

Now we get to the trainer. I forgot he’s a personal trainer, he has no medical or rehab training. He started asking me questions about what I had been doing and went on to say that my training heart rate was only at 40-60% of my max. Well WTF did he expect?! I just went through aggressive breast cancer treatment!! He then kept asking if the Frozen Shoulder was due to muscle or tendon … neither and I explained it was the capsule around the shoulder. He asked if I was doing acupuncture for it. NO!!! I’m seeing a physiotherapist and getting massages. It’s helping, the range of motion is getting better. Next he asked if I was taking pills for the Lymphedema … What?! NO!!! It’s massage and a compression sleeve that helps with that. If he didn’t know what I was talking about he should have just asked not assumed which made him sound stupid. At some point in the middle of all that I couldn’t hold back anymore, I started crying. At this point I knew why. Having someone tell me I’m training at such a low percentage of my maximum heart rate made me feel like I had accomplished nothing and that I’m still so far from where I was pre-cancer. In reality I had made a lot of progress since last July when I started the exercise program. At that time my training heart rate was even lower!! ASSHOLE! I guess he was just insensitive and clueless but I’m still sensitive and emotional. Not only am I recovering physically but also mentally and emotionally. I’ve always been fairly sensitive to others when they are going through difficult times so it’s hard for me to grasp how in these situations people can be so cold. I think the fact that I look young and healthy makes others even less sensitive. It’s almost as if because they can’t see it they don’t believe it. VERY FRUSTRATING! 

Monday I will be calling head office to tell them about my very unpleasant and upsetting experience. I will also be going to another location to complete the membership enrollment and assessment (which frankly is pointless as these trainers no nothing about my current condition). Hopefully next week’s visit will go better. 

Not gonna stop Living My Life

As I mentioned before I am planning a trip to London, Paris and a few cities in Italy. I’m so excited and looking forward to this trip!! The friend that I’m going with wanted to confirm our dates so that she could book her ticket. She’s coming back earlier than I am so we might also be flying there separately. While on the phone I mentioned to her that I went to see my oncologist and now have mild Lymphedema. I was a little down after leaving the hospital. I think because it was a reminder of everything that’s happened in the past year and a half. It’s not life threatening and causes more discomfort than anything else. I did have a bit of pain but that’s gone. My wrist is a little swollen and I’ve been wearing my compression sleeve. I knew there was a chance this could happen but I guess I was hoping it wouldn’t. It is something that can happen when your lymph nodes have been removed and also damaged by radiation. I had both. 

The friend without knowing much about Lymphedema said to me that maybe I shouldn’t be traveling and maybe I should cancel the trip. WHAT?!! My initial response was that I’m not going to stop living my life! She kept going, saying my health comes first. Does she think that I wouldn’t put my health first?! My health has been the priority since this whole ordeal started! Lymphedema is nothing to cancel a trip over and by August it will probably be gone. She then went on to say maybe I shouldn’t travel for the next year or so also because of the surgery. What the F@!$ is she talking about??? What does my surgery have to do with anything?! I’ve been on 4 trips since treatment ended and have been fine. A little tired afterwards but perfectly fine. I told her this. She was still worrying and continued with her Debbie Downer commentary and unsolicited advice. I then said I’d call my doctor and ask my cousin who is a surgeon and familiar with Lymphedema. I realized I was saying it to shut her up and had no intention of calling either of them. The following day I told her that my cousin said it was fine to travel as long as I wore my compression sleeve. I didn’t ask my cousin. Mentioned to my brother who is a physiotherapist and he said exactly that. She felt reassured. I also told her that she didn’t need to worry about me, I know what’s okay for me and what isn’t. Also that I intend to continue living my life without constant worrying. She didn’t respond. 

The entire conversation pissed me off. I think it’s because I didn’t like the fact that someone who isn’t that close was telling me how to live my life! She’s not my doctor or my mother. Who is she to tell me to reconsider my trip?!?! If anything I want to do even more with my life than before. I want to enjoy everyday and live a full, rich and happy life. I’ve been doing a pretty good job. I want to travel as much as possible. I still can’t believe she said that maybe I shouldn’t go. UGH!!! That was not concern, that was her not wanting to inconvenience herself if something happened. You may be thinking that I’m assuming but it was what she was saying and that’s what my gut is telling me. One thing I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. It’s disappointing that she would behave that way but I’m not shocked. This whole experience has taught me a lot about myself and others. Some good, some bad. 

I’m still going to enjoy the trip. I’m not letting her or anyone ruin things for me. Just because she is a worry wart and angry about what happened to her several years ago doesn’t mean she has to rain on my parade. I’m doing well and I’m not going to stop living my life! I hope she isn’t like this while we are traveling. BUT when people show you who they are, you should remember that and not expect them to be someone different. So she will probably be that way on our trip to some extent. As long as it’s minimal I’ll ignore it. 

5 MONTHS TO GO … LONDON PARIS ITALY!! πŸ˜„

Lymphatic Cording

Does the post op trauma never end?! It’s been just over a year since I had surgery and my arm and shoulder have had issues on and off ever since. Recently these issues have gotten worse. I’ve been dealing with FROZEN SHOULDER for the past few months. I’m still going to physiotherapy and massage therapy. It’s getting better but it’s a slow process. Last week I noticed pain in my wrist area, which progressed and when I straighten my arm there is pain from the axilla all the down my arm to my wrist. This happened several months ago and resolved in a few weeks with stretching. It’s now come back and seems to be a bit worse than the last time. My forearm is swollen and in pain. It seems to be from LYMPHATIC CORDING or AXILLARY WEB SYNDROME. The below explains a little bit about what it is.

“Axillary web syndrome (AWS), also known as cording, sometimes develops as a side effect of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). Both procedures involve removing just a few (SLNB) or many (ALND) of the axillary, or underarm, lymph nodes. Most people with breast cancer need to have at least one of these surgeries. Scar tissue from surgery to the chest area to remove the cancer itself also can contribute to cording.

If you develop axillary web syndrome, you’ll often be able to see and/or feel a web of thick, ropelike structures under the skin of your inner arm. Lymphedema therapists often call these “cords.” (In some cases, you may not see or feel the cords, but sensations of pain and tightness will tell you they are there.) You may first notice them when you’re doing something that involves raising your arm to shoulder level or above your head. If it happens, cording typically occurs anywhere from several days to several weeks after your surgery, although there have been individual cases where it appears many months later.” – breastcancer.org

I’m trying to exercise 3-5 times a week but when in pain with arm/shoulder issues it can make it very difficult. I’ll try to continue my modified workouts and hopefully at some point things will get back to normal or should I say my new normal.

All of this is exhausting. Every time I start to feel better and feel like I’m making progress something else happens. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Since November I’ve been sick (cold/flu) every few weeks. Each time I get sick it takes me forever to get better so then it feels like 1 step forward 2 steps back. On top of all that, the emotional effects of everything are also there to deal with. SIGH … Right now I feel drained. Part of that is because I’m physically really tired. Didn’t get enough sleep last night. That never helps.

At the end of the day, I’m still here living my life and I’m happy! πŸ™‚
Looking forward to dinner with a friend tomorrow and also excited planning my trip to EUROPE in August. London Paris Milan Rome and Florence! Can’t wait!!

To be or not to be A MOMMY!?

For some reason today’s been a difficult day. Actually, let me correct that, today I had some difficult moments. The entire day overall was fine. I’ve learned not to let things get to me and have gotten better at letting things go! Since I’ve applied these strategies I’ve been a much happier person.

Woke up feeling good and actually woke up early which is tough since I still sleep 9.5 hrs on average. This is normal for me right now and is slowly getting better so hoping that another 6 months and I’ll be down to 8 hrs. Again I wish that someone, like my previous oncologist had mentioned this. Oh well I’ll ask my new oncologist how long this dreadful fatigue could potentially last.

Back to my difficult day. I was in the shower and for whatever reason starting thinking about my cousins, my brother and their kids. I’m referring to the cousins I’m close to as I see them often even though they don’t live here. There are a few weddings this year and if possible we will all be there. Although I don’t think everyone will be at each wedding. Even still what happens is, when my cousins and brother are there with their kids and then there’s just me, I feel very excluded. Because their kids are all younger it feels worse. Then along with that, I’m sure there are people judging me and some feeling sorry for me. Don’t need anyone’s pity, I’m perfectly fine. A lot of people are also so insensitive and have no self awareness. This makes things tough because I could be fine and someone could say something thoughtless and then all of a sudden I will feel very sad about not having any children. Thanks to Breast Cancer I never will. The gift that yet again keeps on giving.

I’ve accepted this part of my story but I have moments where I want to be Mommy and not just Aunty. Especially when it’s always around me. I’ve made new friends who don’t have kids and even met up with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in 20 yrs. It was so nice to see her! She is also single with no kids. So we were able to relate on a lot of different levels. She also wants to just travel and maybe even move from here. We were so on the same page haha.

I really am fine and this was just a bad day. Tomorrow is a new day. Who knows what exciting things will happen!

It’s OK … I’m HAPPY I’m Alive!!!

I wrote this last JUNE … Summer is here and with that comes summer clothes that are less bulky, where it’s noticeable that I have one breast. The radiated skin is sensitive and wearing a bra for too long is uncomfortable. Because I don’t have big breasts, most of the time I’ll just wear a sports bra and tank top … Like right now as I’m getting a pedicure. I’m also socializing a bit more now so it was time to finally get the prosthesis I’ve gone without for 6 months! Sometimes I’d just put some material in my bra and it worked lol. Oh well … It’s OK, I’m happy I’m alive!
I’m now living in the suburbs with my parents and will be in my own place and still out of the city for at least another year. It’s OK … I’m happy I’m alive!!
Was so interesting to read what I had written 3 months post treatment!

I’m so glad that I started writing this blog. It got me through some rough days since writing helped get it out. It’s also something others can read, whether it’s something they can relate to or whether they’re learning about another persons journey through breast cancer treatment and life afterwards. I also love to write so it was (and still is) a great way to document everything. Reading the above reminded me of where I was and where I am now. I will only continue to feel better.

A lot of things still don’t bother me because I’m truly just thankful and happy to be alive. There are a lot of things I don’t care about anymore, insignificant things that may have bothered me in the past. I try to live in the present and not worry about the future as worrying isn’t going to change it. I’m also more focused on doing the things that make me happy!

And as for my one breast, it’s been a year and 2 months since the mastectomy and I don’t really care that much. Yes I want to feel normal again with two breasts, and I don’t want to worry about wearing my prosthesis and thinking about certain clothes that may be too low in the front. Actually I don’t really care about the ‘being low in the front’, I usually will wear it anyways. The hassle of the right bra with the prosthesis is a pain, especially when I want to wear a strapless! Ugh. Still working on that one. I’d like to just look and feel like myself again but if I have to wait another year for the reconstruction it really doesn’t matter to me because I’M HAPPY and GRATEFUL FOR MY LIFE. 😊