Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm fine, really

OK, just because I haven't posted in a while, and just because when I DO post I complain a lot, it doesn't mean I'm not doing OK! Life has been busy, with soccer (Leah) and softball (Emma) season starting up in March, plus our usual hectic schedule, not to mention my daily radiation....I mean, Suzy Sunshine....appointments.

When radiation first began, I was so unhappy that I didn’t want to write about it. I eventually got over it all and right now, I’m OK with my treatments. My arm even feels better, doesn’t hurt as much. I’ve found relief through physical therapy and while I don’t have even close to full mobility yet, I am hoping that it will come within the next few months.

So I’m back to being happy ol’ me. Happy ol’ me with a bad arm and a little sunburn on my chest, that is! But surprise, I don't have a lot to say. Nothing worth posting about. I'm doing a lot less writing, more thinking….. about things like, how to keep the cancer from coming back, if that’s possible. And how did it get there in the first place?

The doctors say there was nothing in particular that I did to make the cancer form or grow. Various books I've read suggest otherwise: among other things, a high-fat diet, no exercise, and high stress can bring it on. I thought I ate pretty well, lots of veggies and fruit, and even though I didn't go to the YMCA anymore I did get plenty of exercise chasing my kids around. As for stress, I am a Type A and can't help it. I'm a worrier. There's also the suggestion that secondhand smoke, underwire bras, or electromagnetic fields contributed to it. And don’t get me started on the soy debate! Experts can’t agree on whether it helps or hurts.

Of course, these are all theories. There's no way to know for sure what caused the cancer. We did rule out 2 known genetic mutations (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2) that can cause breast cancer. The several-thousand-dollar blood test my insurance finally agreed to cover came back negative. So while my cancer wasn't caused by known genetic factors, it does now run in my family and my kids have to be diligent about it when they're older. (That is a conversation I am not looking forward to. Not to mention the guilt. I know this whole thing isn't necessarily my fault, but I still feel indescribably guilty for possibly passing this cancer on down to my children.)

The important news remains: I am still here! AND the cancer is out, so everyone says, and between the chemo, surgery, radiation, and Tamoxifen, my risk of recurrence is less than 15% (per my radiation oncologist, the risk is even less in the left, previously cancerous, breast).

Still, I can't help but think about what's next, what if it comes back? What can I do to improve my odds?

Per my doctors, there’s not much I can do to prevent it from coming back, other than the standard treatments (chemo, surgery, radiation) I’ve been through. The Tamoxifen that I take every day (and will continue to take for 5 years) is supposed to work very well in preventing breast cancer from forming.

But that’s not enough for me. I would like a guarantee, although I know that’s not going to happen. So what do I do? I worry that I’m worrying too much, I get stressed over whether I’m too stressed. I know that can’t be healthy.

So I’ve been spending some time examining my habits and am working on improving my overall person. I have an appointment with a dietitian coming up, to talk about how to improve my diet, make it more healthy. There are foods that some believe help protect against cancer. I want to learn all about it. The family will benefit from this too. I am also looking for a yoga class to take, after my dance class ends, so I can get some exercise and maybe even relax a little bit. And I’m trying to lighten up a little, not let things get to me. Perhaps some massage and pedicures are in my future. A little pampering sounds great right now!

I know that none of these changes can guarantee me a life free of cancer. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to take better care of myself, and be a little spoiled for a bit. Who wouldn’t want to feel better? This way, if I ever do have to face breast cancer again, I’ll be well-fed, in good shape, and relaxed from the start! Ready to fight again!


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