2014 in Review

2014 was a pretty big year for me. Not quite as big as 2013, but quite a bit still happened in my cancer journey. Therefore, I think it’s worth a look back on the year to see what changes occurred.

I started the year recovering from my mastectomy and going through radiation. While radiation wasn’t as hard as chemo, I really didn’t appreciate breaking out in hives at the end of the treatment.

Hives from the radiation treatment

Hives from the radiation treatment

With hindsight being 20/20, I’m wishing now that I didn’t decide to try reconstruction after my mastectomy. It was a pretty close decision, and now it’s looking like I went through all the pain of expansion and living with the expander (never did get anything close to comfortable with it) without the benefit of an implant at the end. It’s not a big deal living without a right breast. When I’m just going to be home, I don’t even wear a bra much.

I did finish up all my active treatments – radiation and Herceptin were the treatments in the beginning of the year. Now I access the port only to flush it.

No more of this!

No more of this!

My hair is still changing as it comes in. It’s much curlier now than it was at the beginning of the year. I think I’m going to keep it short for a while, especially now that I can go four months or so in between hair cuts. Getting a hair cut every two months gets expensive, even at the cheap place I go!

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the end of the year - so curly!

My hair at the end of the year – so curly!

Things to look forward to this year: not as many doctor’s appointments, since I’m not in active treatment. I’ll have another MuGA scan and a mammogram, but I’m not sure what else in terms of tests. I’m down to every six months with Dr. Engel, and I something similar for the oncologist.

My big goal is to get my port out. I’ve finally gotten used to it and hardly ever notice it anymore (it only took about 15 months), but I still will be happier with it out. If nothing else, it will open up my bathing suit and mastectomy bra options.

Let’s see what the year brings, shall we?



Getting Back To Life

Things have been quiet around here lately, which is just the way I like it. I did have a doctor’s appointment last week. It was a little odd because my oncologist I’ve been seeing at the cancer center left to work somewhere else. For this particular appointment, I just met with a physician’s assistant. She made sure I was feeling fine, but didn’t even do a breast exam – she figured I had enough people poking and prodding in that area lately so I didn’t need another.

The big news is I’m getting ready to play hockey again. I’m giving myself eight weeks to heal from the surgery, and then I’m heading back on the ice. I will make one concession to the cancer. Since I still have my port in place, I’ve gotten a protective shirt to wear over the port.

My new shirt with a pocket for the protective piece.

My new shirt with a pocket for the protective piece.

It’s designed to protect your shoulder from the recoil of a shotgun, but it should protect my port from a random shot that my shoulder pads somehow fail to protect me from. The protective piece hardens with air contact, so it comes in an air-tight package with lots of warning labels.

The protective piece hardens with air contact, so it comes in an air-tight package with lots of warning labels

When you open the package, the protective piece is soft, and it hardens over a ten minute period. I put it in the pocket and kept pushing it over the port and my chest so it fit smoothly.

Before hardening - soft and flat

Before hardening – soft and flat

After hardening, hard and curved

After hardening, hard and curved

We’ll see how it works for hockey. I have quality shoulder pads, so I’m not too worried, but a shattered port would be a bad thing. I’m hoping I get a chance to get on the ice a few times before my first game, to get my legs under me. It’s been a while since I played hockey. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten it all!



Port Is De-Accessed

Alternately titled: I can give hugs without fear again.

My last dose of antibiotics was Wednesday, which meant I didn’t need my port accessed anymore. Yes – I could get that itchy thing off my shoulder. Bonus, no more danglies hanging off my front. I can wear a bra again, which makes it a little easier to be decent out in public. If I wear a bra, I actually look mostly even again. As soon as my drain access point closes up, I can even take a shower. Such things I have to look forward to.

The Visiting Nurse tried to convince me I had to leave the bandage over my port on for 24 hours. No, not so much. I’ll leave it on for a couple of hours, to make sure the incision site closes. I need to be able to itch that location, and another bandage doesn’t help me scratch.

One At A Time, Please

Don’t problems know they’re supposed to come one at a time? I have the energy to deal with them as long as they come singly, not in the group I’m currently dealing with. It’s not fair when they gang up on me.

The pulled muscle seems to be getting better. I was able to mow a bit of the lawn today (the grass is getting to prairie stage, which the kids don’t want to play in as much).

I think I have the coughing mostly under control. I’ve been taking Zyrtex, which seems to control the coughing better than the Claritin I tried earlier. The coughing isn’t gone, but it’s much better. I’m usually fine until mid-afternoon, and then starting around 3 the coughing is worse. It makes it hard to lecture when you want to cough every time you say something, but the coughing has declined. Of course, going out to mow the lawn didn’t help the coughing this evening, but sacrifices must be made and chores must be done.

My new problem is I seem to have some kind of infection under the skin over the expander. It’s been a bit red and warm for a while, but I thought it was just related to the pulled muscle and being the expander. I started to get puffy areas on the expander the other day or so, and today one of those spots (a very thin spot that had just finally healed from picking some dead skin months ago) started oozing pus. Lovely. Guess who gets to call the plastic surgeon tomorrow. And if this messes up my surgery date, I am going to be really, REALLY mad. Maybe he’ll need to take the expander out to let the infection heal. That would remove the expander. The problem is, if Dr. Kang removes the expander, I’m not sure I’ll have the strength of will to put one back in. On a good note, perhaps the reason I’ve been so tired has been I’m fighting an infection, and not because I’m anemic. Lemonade anyone?

How Quickly I Forget

Not that anyone in my family would be surprised to hear that I forgot something. It’s a running joke that goes, “Hey, do you remember. Oh wait, nevermind. You won’t remember.” I was reminded of two things this week.

The first reminder was how much pain messes with your life. My chest muscles are feeling somewhat better, which just means new achy spots have appeared. I think what may have happened is the expander shifted a bit. That would explain all the new aches and pains I’m currently experiencing. I’ve actually had to break out some of the left-over pain meds I had floating around just so I could function. The drugs work great. I feel completely normal, and then they wore off this evening and it was bad.

The constant pain just drains my energy. The not sleeping because every sleeping position involves some amount of pain doesn’t help. I’m also not hungry, which is a key characteristic that says “Not feeling well.” It is getting better, slowly but surely.

Working hard

Working hard

The other thing I noticed was how much easier homeschooling was this year compared to next year. I figured it was just because the kids were another year older and that much better at working independently. Someone (I think either my mother or sister) commented it was probably because I didn’t have to schedule homeschooling around cancer treatments and doctor’s appointments. Oh yeah. That would probably make things much harder than this year.

Working hard

Working hard

Now to feel better, soon.

This entry was posted on September 3, 2014, in update and tagged .

Overdid It a Bit

I just found another activity I really shouldn’t do – strenuous digging. I decided to put some bricks down off the back patio, which required digging through some gravelly dirt. Usually, I can tell when I’m straining the muscles over my expander. I didn’t feel anything at this time, but when I woke up the next morning, I could hardly move. It hurts just to breathe and heaven forbid I have to cough. It feels like I just got the third expansion again. Three days later, I can exist without pain killers, but I’m still waiting to take a deep breath.

This entry was posted on September 1, 2014, in update and tagged .

Sore muscles

Summer is flying by, as is does so many years. I have been much busier living life and doing things around the house compared to last summer, which is great. I have noticed that I have to be careful with certain actions, or the muscles stretched across my expander hurt. They’re trying to contract and the expander underneath the muscles doesn’t compress, which leads to achiness in my chest. Just another one of those side effects they don’t tell you about ahead of time.

The worst I’ve found is a pushing motion, like when you’re scrubbing wallpaper paste off walls. I make sure to pick small sections to work on each day because I can’t do too much at a time. I also have problems laying on my stomach. I don’t usually sleep on my stomach, but I woke myself up this morning with the muscle over my expander cramping because I was sleeping on it. It adds to my reasons I’m actually looking forward to my appointment with the plastic surgeon. I so want the expander out. Now if this scab on my scar would just fall off…