Cancer log 155: Its…

Cancer log 155: Its the one-year anniversary of my announcing my breast cancer diagnosis in public, a few days after the actual diagnosis. One in eight women will face a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, but it was still a shock to me. I got the news when I was at work, and I had to wait a while before I felt steady enough to drive home.

Mine was triple-positive, grade 2 out of 3, invasive ductal carcinoma, no evidence of angiolymphatic invasion, no perineural invasion. A tumor about 1.9 centimeters in size. My prognosis was very positive. I did five months of chemo (only the last two of which were the more intense chemo that makes your hair fall out), which shrunk the tumor dramatically, followed by a lumpectomy and then eight weeks of daily radiation. Im still doing Herceptin infusions every three weeks until next October; sometime after that, Ill have minor surgery to remove my port. The chemo put me in early menopause (Im 44), and Ill be taking a Tamoxifen pill every day for the rest of my life to reduce the risk of recurrence; luckily, I haven t noticed any side effects. I may do reconstructive surgery at some point; Im still waiting to decide that.

As far as we know, Im cured now  I have a mammogram coming up on March 1st, which Im trying not to fret about. If its clear, the next one is six months later, I think, and then we go back to the once a year schedule.

I dont have any deep thoughts on it all at the moment. I was lucky that I happened to have reasonably good health otherwise going into this  being relatively fit definitely helped my body physically cope with the ordeal of treatment. It's motivation to work hard on fitness this coming year, and going forward. I really really hope I dont have to do this whole round again, because it ate much of a year, but if it does come back, I want to give myself the best chance to be able to deal with it.

While I feel physically tip-top, I am still coping with the emotional fallout, I think. I have a lot less energy for helping friends and family with their own difficulties that I used to; I think Im still sort of emotionally burned out from last year. Im hoping thats not a permanent thing, but more of a well running dry, one that will refill itself with time. I did learn that I tend to deal with truly difficult things by a funny combination of external writerly processing, and going isolationist on a personal level. Even my best and closest friends hardly heard from me last year. I did want to talk about it all  but only in writing. Maybe that let me be more in control; Im not sure. I watched a lot of tv, which was soothing.

The kids got through it okay, I think, though they were a little neglected. We were lucky that the most arduous part of the treatment happened over the summer, when both Kevin and I were home. Of course, thats usually our intense research / writing time, so both his math and my writing are months behind schedule, which had some budget and other consequences, but we are lucky to be in a financial position where that was annoying, but not actually threatening. We were also lucky that our insurance covered the vast majority of the expenses; I think we ended up with under $2000 in costs total.

Mostly, I feel grateful to all the people in my life who offered support. Kevin was  just perfect, really. I cant think of anything he couldve done better to take care of me. My close family and friends were all wonderful; I am a lucky girl. And then theres you guys.

One consequence of living such a public life for so long (my blog just celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year) is that I now know a lot of people. And last year, it felt like they were all cheering me on  whether it was through casseroles and knitted hats, funny and inspiring cards, surprise flowers, little gifts, or just a stream of encouraging messages and thousands of likes on Facebook progress reports.

I cant imagine being better supported through all this, and if the experience has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that community matters, and it is absolutely worth the extra time and effort and emotional labor involved in sending that little note, or dropping off that casserole. So thank you  thank you all. Seriously. You held me up and carried me through, and I just hope that my journaling the process helped some of you too, or that I can return the favor some other way, some day.

The full set of cancer logs is here, should you ever need them, or want to point somebody else to them. I do plan to continue them as appropriate, but fingers crossed, they will be much less frequent going forward!

Again, thanks.

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