Back to the Concrete Jungle

During my 18 months of post treatment recovery, I’ve made a significant effort in trying to get my eating, sleeping and exercise on track. These things are important for everyone but for someone who’s been through breast cancer (or any cancer) they are paramount. After my first full time week back at work, my self care has gone to hell! 

After being off for 2 years and 2 months, I decided to return to work mid October, Wednesday October 14th to be exact. That was after the (Canadian) Thanksgiving long weekend. My case manager wanted me back the first week of October because my oncologist had said the month of October. I explained that I had a couple of appointments at the hospital that week so it only made logical sense that the week after would be better. The Disability group does not care and would like to see you back at work yesterday!! They agreed to let me start 1 week later but left my ‘return to full time’ start date the same which was November 30th. So now instead of being on a modified schedule for 8 weeks, it would be 7. I agreed thinking that I could easily extend that if necessary. Big mistake! Note to self – always remember to err on the side of more time, not less. 

The first month back was fine. It was actually great to be back and have some sense of normalcy again. Being home all the time can get depressing and frustrating. I was working 2-3 days a week and they were shorter days. After a few weeks I went up to 3 full days which was okay because I still had Tues/Thurs off. This gave me time to catch up on sleep, workout and do my groceries etc. I was feeling good, feeling healthy and definitely not stressed. This was giving me a chance to slowly adjust to working again. The other part that is a huge adjustment is the actual work I am doing. After being away from it for over 2 years, there is a lot I don’t remember! Along with that is the fact that my memory and focus are not 100%. It’s beyond frustrating so I have to keep reminding myself that it will simply take time and to be patient with myself. 

At this point I was a few weeks away from my full time start date. I went to my doctor and physiotherapist as I had been having back pain since returning to work. Any pain after breast cancer (or any cancer) is scary because you start to worry that maybe the cancer is back. So even though we were pretty sure it wasn’t I had to have a back X-ray to be 100% sure … After a couple of stressful days of waiting the results came back clear. SIGH. RELIEF. Well now we have confirmed that the back pain was due to sitting and working on a computer all day. My body has been through a lot and it is going to take longer than 7 weeks to physically adjust. I got a letter from both my doctor and physiotherapist stating that I should stay on a 3-4 day schedule for an additional month. Because I didn’t provide clinical notes, treatment plan or diagnostics they didn’t approve my extension. Really?! Didn’t know that my case manager was a medical professional who would know what was best for me. Ugh! 

I could have gone back to physiotherapist and gotten the detail she wanted but it was now the end of November already. I thought I’ll have to end up doing a full time week anyways because the approval process takes at least 1 week. By that time it will be a couple of weeks before Christmas and then the last 2 weeks are short weeks anyways … not to mention that I’d like to get my full pay again. I figured I could manage, told myself ‘I can do this, it will be fine’. WRONG! Enter the week from hell!!

Get Moving! 

WALK, RUN, YOGA, PLAY SPORTS, TAKE THE STAIRS … whatever you can do is better than nothing. Just be active someway somehow. We have such hectic lifestyles but exercise needs to be a priority! 20 mins/day, 150 mins/week. That’s doable. So instead of making excuses, make the time!! 

 

Going Through Withdrawal

  
I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now and I am still missing the food, the beautiful views, the architecture and the different people I was around everyday. It feels really weird to be home by myself. I’ll be in social settings at times but a lot of my time is spent on my own, especially since I have not yet returned to work (back to work in 9 days). Adding to that is the fact that I’ve been to 3 weddings in the last 6 weeks! Just a reminder that I am and have been single for over 2 years now. 

While I was away things were relaxed, happy and just about enjoying life, which I guess is the case on any vacation. Now that I am back I’m trying to prepare for going back to work but also I’ve had several appointments as its my 6 month follow up time. I had a mammogram and an MRI. Mammogram came out clear and hopefully the MRI will too. I guess waiting for the test results and having to be at the hospital so much is also causing a little bit of stress, making me want to be back in a stress free (mental vacation) state. 

Over the weekend, I was out with my younger brother and his friends for a birthday and while it was fun, it highlighted again the fact that I’m 40 and single (they’re all late 20s to early 30s) and a couple of them are already married. Then one of them (girl of course) says “when are the rest of these guys gonna get married, they’re getting old.” Mind you, part of it is because she’s married and within their close circle of friends, her husband is the only married one so she’s always the only female and she really wants another wife to hang with in the group. I get that, but seriously to say that to me?! If they’re old at 30/31 then I’m ancient!! Was again in a situation like that last night. My mom had a get together for the newlyweds of the wedding we went to last week, who are 10+ yrs younger me. The new bride and her sister in law kept talking about their husbands and how messy they are and adjusting to being married. That could have been part of the conversation, but it didn’t need to be the conversation for the entire night! I actually think it should have been a private conversation, not the one at a party to celebrate your marriage!! Immaturity or cultural?! I think part of it is cultural, it’s just how most (not all) Indian women think. So again it was not an enjoyable conversation. While in Firenze (Florence) and out with my cousin, her husband and their friends, there was no talk like that. Even though they were all 10+ years younger, nothing was said that reminded me I was older, I truly just had a good time! We even decided that I was 31 haha. I came home that night feeling great!

I’m definitely done with these family friend situations for awhile. Missing being away … Mi manchi Italia! I want my next vacation fix! 

Relax Rejuvenate Recharge

  
I am in London!! Got here yesterday and so far just spent time with cousins. Went out for dinner, talking and catching up, which has been great! Cancer is not on my mind. So nice to mentally have that break!  
I did share the events of the last 2 years with one of my cousins but not the other. I want to tell the other cousin but she’s very close with her mom and I don’t want the whole family to know. Funny though because with the cousin I didn’t tell, we shared a lot of personal stuff. Things that actually made me feel closer to her. I am actually looking forward to spending more time with her in the next few days. The cousin I did tell is quite a big younger and now I am wondering if I should have told her … I’m naturally a very open person and I sometimes share too much. I told her something that saddened me about a cousin I didn’t get to see today. I didn’t need to tell her that, she wasn’t going to make it any better. So don’t know why I told her. I think it’s my natural desire to share. I really need to start keeping more to myself. I’m an open person but I think being too open isn’t a good thing. I trust her and telling her was fine but sometimes I feel that I unnecessarily say too much … Oversharing again!

This vacation is going to give me time to relax, enjoy myself and rejuvenate before going back to work in October. I think we underestimate the power a trip and time away can have. Being in a different environment is fantastic! Meeting new people and seeing new and interesting places is enlightening. Experiencing a different culture, the food, the energy, the art and architecture is amazing! I think it definitely is therapeutic after such a life altering experience. It really will help me recharge and hopefully feel a little closer to my normal self. 

Tomorrow off to see Wimbledon area and Notting Hill. 😊

Another friend!?

I recently learned that a friend who is only 33 was just diagnosed with endometrial cancer. I truly feel for her and it saddened me to hear this. I do know how it feels to get such a devastating diagnosis. It brought back a lot of memories and brought up a lot of emotion. I felt her frustration when she was waiting for her appointment (2 weeks) after the diagnosis. 2 weeks of nothing but waiting and left to imagine anything and everything!! Torture. It made me very thankful to the surgeon who expedited all of my tests and got things going immediately. I will be sending him a thank you email/card just something to let him know how grateful I am. He was wonderful. 

She called me after I returned from a weekend away for my cousins wedding. She never calls, usually texts. So I knew it wasn’t good … I just didn’t think it was that. We talked for a long while. I was glad to be able to answer any questions and support her. Not the thing you want to bond over but I’m sure we will be closer after this. My heart went out to her as I really do know what it feels like. 

I think it’s crazy that the incidence of cancer is on the rise and more and more young women seem to be getting this horrible diagnosis!! My thoughts are that it’s the food we eat, the environment and our lifestyles. So much of what we put into our body is processed and void of nutrients. Our society also deems our busy and stressful lifestyles as a badge of success. No sleep, food on the go and consistent stress. None of that is good. No time to exercise or just relax and clear our minds. Our immune system weakened by a lack of sleep, too much stress and not enough nutrient dense foods. I don’t think it’s one thing but the above in some combination that causes things to go sideways. 

I’ve started living healthier … Eating better, sleeping well with minimal to no stress in my day to day life. This seems to be the more expensive lifestyle. I am very fortunate to be able to do this while not working as I’m still recovering. Tentatively returning to work in a couple of months. Have to make sure I can maintain this once I start working again. 

My friend was pretty healthy overall. She did have a lot of stress in her life though. I check in with her frequently to see how she’s doing, I think about her often and she’s in my prayers. SIGH … 

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. 🙂 

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. 

Beautiful Barcelona

   

  

 I’m in Barcelona. Got here yesterday evening. Was exhausted since I didn’t sleep much on the overnight flight. Woke up late and had to change rooms due to a bathroom issue. Anyways once everything was sorted out I finally went across the street for lunch to Elsa Y Fred. Sitting here and enjoying the food and atmosphere I forgot that I had Breast cancer and am still recovering. I don’t mean forgot for a minute, it just hasn’t been on my mind!! I think that means I need more trips out of North America. I’m not saying I think about it all the time but it’s not something I forget about especially since I’m not back to work yet. At home there are things constantly reminding me because I have Lymphedema and still working on the frozen shoulder. Those things should be resolved in a few months but it’s something that is there right now that I have to go to physiotherapy for and do exercises for every single day. 
Barcelona is a beautiful city! I’ve barely seen it yet but just the little I’ve seen is so lovely. 6 more days in Spain. 😊

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 😉

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 🙂 … Whatever it is you need. 

Like NIKE says – Just do it!