Health Mirror: Reflections on Health

Nutralady's Views on Building Healthier Bodies, Minds, & Spirits


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Post-Breast Cancer: Routines & Challenges

New routines are finally taking shape, thank goodness! We get to the gym 1-3 times per week, upping activity & exercises one by one.

My Oxygen saturation levels have begun to improve since I started at the gym. The anemia keeps them low, which is part of why I’m so fatigued a lot. I’m hoping that this will all improve as my activity increases & my weight drops.

My Dr (PCP) started me on a BP med to counteract the high BP caused by 2 other meds I’m on, 1 to control my overactive bladder muscle, & the other to suppress estrogen, which is what breast cancer feeds on. I have to take that med for a total of 5 years (3 yrs, 8 & 1/2 months to go, maybe longer), just in case any cancer cells got into the lymph system to go hide elsewhere in the body. If there were any, which I’m told is unlikely, they would be unable to grow without any food source. Supposedly, the 5 years is long enough to keep them from ever activating, if there were any hiding anywhere, but recent research is indicating that should be anywhere up to 10 years, in many cases.  Since I’m not a gambler & am more practical & pragmatic, I decided I wasn’t willing to take any chances, so I take the medicine. If the recommendation increases the length of time for that in the future, I believe I would be inclined to comply. For now, we have to counteract the side effect of the High BP so that it doesn’t cause other damage to any organs, etc.

In the meantime, I have been declared a Survivor, a year ago May 14th (389 days), by my oncologist. My breast cancer surgeon declared me cancer-free after the first hour of my first surgery on November 17, 2016 (567 days ago), when she removed all breast tissue plus 4 lymph nodes, only one of which had any cancer cells in it, but not enough to truly call it positive, by current standards. There needs to be a 2mm cluster for that; mine was only 1mm. As for the breast tissue, she removed all of it, said she got all of the cancer, & the pathology report declared clear margins around all the cancer spots; there were quite a few, 2 different types.

I’ve learned, over the past 18 months, that most drs never really say “cancer-free” anymore; they say “No Evidence of Disease“ or (NED). I’ll take it either way.
The future will be what it will be, but I won’t live my life expecting cancer to rear its ugly head again!

It’s only been 7 & 1/2 months since my last surgery (of 7), and I keep thinking I should be better than I am, then someone reminds me it was only 7 months ago, & I had a total of 7 OR visits in 11 months, with an enormous amount of anesthesia hours racked up, & the last 3 times I experienced a full system crash after anesthesia & antibiotics were administered.  So, actually, I’m doing pretty darn well, all told!!

The recovery & recuperation continues, & I continue to improve, slowly but surely.

The takeaway?

GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS on time, every time!!! Doing so absolutely saved my life!!

No amount of fear can justify not getting them done routinely!! Be more afraid of the nightmare you might have to live in if you don’t do them on time & have to deal with worse stuff than you would need to if it’s caught early!!

PLUS… think of the peace of mind you’ll have when the test results all come back negative! 1 in 8 women will face off with this monster up close & personal, but that means that SEVEN WILL NOT!!! That will most likely, statistically, be you!! If you’re one of the unlucky ones, like me, it’ll be so much easier to deal with in the earlier stages.

Please share the link to my Blog so the message can be shared far & wide!!!

Thanks for listening! ❤️

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My Mother’s Day Blog: A TRIBUTE TO MY MOM & HER BREAST CANCER JOURNEY

Sunday, May 13th, 2018, is Mother’s Day, so I’d like to tell you about an Epiphany I had today, concerning my Mom.

The things I’m going to talk about may seem quite shocking & difficult to read & digest (no gore, I promise), but I’ve also promised that I will be sharing everything, and that I won’t be sugar-coating anything, nor will I be pulling any punches, either.

I’ve also stated my purpose of being educational, so fasten your seatbelt and read on.

This revelation is very important to you & those you love, care for, or know, who will end up having cancer at some point in their lives. One in eight women will; you do the math.
You already have a reason to be here reading this, so pay attention and learn.

This will help you be a better loved one, family member, friend, caretaker, co-worker, and empathetic human being.
It could very well help you as a patient , should you ever find yourself on this unspeakable journey yourself. Trust me!! Here we go…

I was reading through my journal, posts, comments, & notes to see where to go & how to start the next segment for this Blog.

I found a reference to my Mom & her journey with Breast Cancer when she was 50 years old, much younger than I was when I was diagnosed 20 long months ago at the age of 68. In my comment, I mentioned, rather blithely, I now see, that her “journey” was two years (because that’s how long she was on chemo).
I teared up when that sentence slapped me upside my brain; that’s exactly how it felt!

TWO YEARS???
Her journey lasted two years???

Oh, how very ignorant was that (in the true sense of the word)!!
And insensitive, too, but most assuredly unintentional!
I uttered that sentence not that many months ago, while still in the throes of my own journey’s beginnings.

Let me explain why that was so off-track. I truly did not understand at all. Here’s what I know now…

Cancer victims & Survivors almost always refer to their diagnosis, treatment, recovery, & recuperation as their journeys. Why? Simply because that’s what it is. No other word adequately describes it.

What someone who has never had cancer can’t possibly understand/comprehend, at the core/soul level, is that the journey may have a beginning, but there really never is an ending. This I’ve been learning, slowly but surely.

Once you have cancer, you are on this journey till the day you die, no matter how short or long a time that takes, even after you are cured, have no evidence of disease, are in remission, or whatever.

Don’t let this article scare you! It’s just a short dissertation of facts that occur over time, but sound so much worse bunched up in one article. You get through them, one step at a time.

A Note of Advice:
If at all possible, every patient should have a loved one or companion with them for every Dr visit, test, procedure, & of course, surgery! Someone to take notes, ask questions, comprehend, & comfort. It helps more than you can imagine. If it’s in your power, don’t ever let anyone go on any appointment alone, including yourself!

The patient will be nervous, anxious, & scared. Reassure her that it will be okay.
It’s okay to feel those feelings.
Take a deep breath.
Picture your happy place.
The feelings are temporary; allow yourself to feel them, & roll right on through them.
Put on your courage hat, & plow right on through them!
(I know. That was redundant, but I think necessary.)

First you have a diagnosis, then rounds of diagnostic tests & blood studies. You are poked, prodded, stuck with needles, & maybe even have dye injected into your bloodstream while you are lying in a huge machine. (Yeah. That was fun!! 🙄)

You have rounds of Doctor appointments. You’ll go from your primary care physician or GYN to a radiologist, who will refer you to a breast surgeon, who will refer you to a reconstructive plastic surgeon, and then an anesthesiologist. There may be more visits with the radiologist. At some point, you will see an oncologist. You may need to see a specialist for genetic testing & counseling.

This stage is a whirlwind, framed in a reference of shock, as each thing hits you while you may still be reeling from the last thing that hit you. It feels very surreal while the puzzle pieces are falling in place, seemingly so rapidly. Hang in there! It’s a rough & bumpy ride, but you just do it, one step at a time. Breathe! Cry when you need to, then wipe your eyes, blow your nose, take a drink of water, & then take that deep breath & the next step. Repeat as often as necessary, one at a time.

All of your regular, pre-cancer care will be affected by your cancer treatments. You may need to postpone other issues & appointments until the cancer treatments are completed or under a certain amount of control. Dental care can become an issue, at times.

You may have surgery, more often than not, multiple times. You may need chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. Your immune system will be suppressed & compromised, so you’ll have to be very careful, as will your caregivers, to make sure you’re not exposed to anyone with an active communicable illness. You may have to have infusion therapy.

If you have chemotherapy, you will, most likely, lose your hair. Be prepared. Hair is hair. (& It does grow back; this, too, is only temporary.)
Chemo does not cherry-pick or discriminate. This means all hair – head & body, including eyebrows & eyelashes, leg hair, & all other hair, from what I’ve read. (I did not have to have chemo or radiation, thank God, so I don’t know this first-hand; it is what other survivors report.)

You may not be physically able, for awhile, to hold your beloved children or grandchildren, due to pain, meds, drainage tubes, & limited range of motion and/or strength. This hurts more than anything else, in my experience!

Also, be careful to not let your pets jump up on you unexpectedly! It happens. It’ll hurt! But they just want to love & comfort you. You just need to be vigilant, careful, & teach them to be gentle. Have your caretaker/s monitor them & keep them from hurting you.

There are usually side effects to endure, even if you end up only having to take a hormone suppressant pill. Whenever you experience them, record them & tell the Dr who prescribed that medication. If the reactions are severe or unbearable, call the Dr immediately or get to the Emergency Department. They can work with you to get you on the correct medication for you.

While you are undergoing usually multiple surgeries and other treatments, your cancer care & treatments will dictate your strength, sleep, eating, bathroom habits, and comfort (or lack thereof).

You may need Physical Therapy; many do, & say it helped their healing greatly.
Many also need counseling to help them understand and deal with everything. There’s no shame in that! I recommend it. Personally, I’m only just recently thinking I may want to add this to my treatment plan for awhile, just to round out the edges, emotionally, because I’m still having issues with anemia, strength, stamina, & the stress of the trauma to my poor old body.

Some people suffer PTS, Post Traumatic Stress (they no longer use the word Disorder, as it is not). It is a psychological effect of almost unbearable trauma. Should you find yourself suffering in any way you may think is PTS, please bring it up & get treatment for it!

One day the chaos will cease, or at least slow down, and you’ll be finding your “new normal.” The old you, at least in part, will no longer exist.

Physically, you are forever changed, but understanding/comprehending the impact of that, from the outside, is truly not possible. Neither is it for you yet; that takes time.

You will have scars – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physical scars (& sometimes, unfortunately, deformities) may not be visible to the outside world, as with breast cancer. Other cancers may not be so visible either, outwardly.

In almost all cases, though, where chemotherapy is involved, there will be the visible “badge of courage” – the bald head, scarves, hats, & wigs. Most patients are very sensitive about this. Some don’t mind, but most do not like off-hand comments & questions regarding this, so try to refrain from doing that. Maybe just saying “your scarf/hat is lovely!” would be nice, but the ladies who wear wigs are quite sensitive & are trying hard to camouflage & look more normal. Just don’t. Same for the bald head – they don’t like off-the-cuff comments about “why’d you shave it?” etc. They feel one of two things, as a rule, from what I’ve seen & heard – either that should be obvious, or it’s really none of your concern. The same is true when their hair is slowly growing back in. Even well-meaning attempts at humor about it often fall flat, so don’t chance it. Inside, they’ll most likely be thinking “like I had a choice! How is that funny to you?” So just don’t.

After all that, you’re declared “A Survivor” and life begins to move forward. You will still be you, but different, too. New & improved. Stronger. More aware of how much you have conquered. More bold, but with less patience & maybe a short fuse (but that’s usually temporary, too).

If you are a person of Faith, you may find, as do many, that your Spiritual journey will be strengthened greatly. Mine was strong to begin with, and it is what got me through this as well as I did, even before the diagnosis. God is so Good!!
I pray for the same experience for you!

And then you’ll have your 3-month, 6-months, & then yearly, check-ups, tests, scans, etc. And so it continues.

The fear of recurrence sneaks up on you. Any pains or other symptoms you don’t expect or understand will send you to the phone to call your Dr or to the Emergency Department. Usually, it’s nothing serious, just scar tissue , maybe, or an undissolved stitch working its way out. You just can’t take chances, though. You have to call, ask, &/or be seen; you just can’t chance it. They encourage you to do so. They’d rather check you, explain it, make sure there’s no problems, & comfort you than have you take chances & miss something that needs attention! So Do It!!

Hence, the journey never really ends. You don’t think about it all the time though, as time moves on, I’m told.
Please, Dear God!!

Back to my Mom, and my Epiphany/Revelation…

Mom recovered from the breast cancer. She beat the beast!! It wasn’t easy, but she developed a great attitude about it. I know for a fact that her Faith was strengthened, too. She lived 27 more years, & died in March 2009 from lung cancer, unrelated to the previous breast cancer.

I did not understand all of this until I had to face it myself, and only today, really – 20 months along on my own journey. It’s a journey you learn about, step-by-step, day-by-day, as you live through it. The deep understandings of it all come with time & personal experience. No way around it.

This is why the Epiphany hit me so hard. I finally realized TODAY that her journey did not end after the two years of chemo; it did not end until the day she died. I didn’t even realize I had previously not understood it! She experienced the effects of that breast cancer & its treatments each & every day of her life from the moment of her diagnosis.

I’m so sorry, Mom!!
I truly did not know.
How could I???

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mom!! I love & miss you!!

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

P.S. to my readers:
If you do not currently have a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father & His Son, Jesus Christ, please reach out to someone who does, & let them guide you in that most important Journey in life!
May God Bless you greatly!!
🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏


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Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Current Status

Well, I haven’t written anything since the first episode where I described how this long journey began, so this installment is long overdue! The way I’m going to tell my story, going forward, is to catch you up with my current status first, and then go back to the beginning, flashback style.

You’ll get a current update, sometimes, at the beginning of each new blog, & then another flashback segment to fill in this long story and get it told. Sometimes it will be just a flashback episode, under the label “The Journey Continues” – it will be an ongoing adventure.

Finally, I have the energy and stamina to do this, so here goes…

CURRENT STATUS::
New routines are finally taking shape, thank goodness! We got to the gym 3 times this past week, upping activity & exercises one by one.

My Oxygen saturation levels have begun to improve since I started at the gym. The anemia (surgically induced; who knew?) keeps them low, which is part of why I’m so fatigued a lot. I’m hoping that this will all improve as my activity increases & my weight drops.

My Dr (PCP) started me on a BP med to counteract the high BP caused by 2 other meds I’m on, 1 to control my overactive bladder muscle, & the other to suppress estrogen, which is what breast cancer feeds on. I have to take that med for a total of 5 years (3 yrs, 9 & 1/2 mo to go), just in case any cancer cells got into the lymph system to go hide elsewhere in the body. If there were any, which I’m told is unlikely (but there’s no way to know), they would be unable to grow without any food source. Supposedly, the 5 years is long enough to keep them from ever activating, if there were any hiding anywhere. Since I’m not a gambler & am more practical & pragmatic, I decided I wasn’t willing to take any chances, so I take the medicine. The side effects were a little daunting at the beginning, but mostly either subsided or modified to tolerable after the first 3-6 months on it.

Now we have to counteract the one major side effect that started later & continues, High BP, so that it doesn’t cause other damage to any organs, etc. What truly amazes me is that the benefit of the BP med was immediate! My BP dropped A LOT after just the first dose, & continues to fluctuate between normal & only slightly high.

In the meantime, I have been declared a Survivor, a year ago May 14th (356 days), by my oncologist.

My breast cancer surgeon declared me cancer-free after the first hour of my first surgery on November 17, 2016 (534 days ago), when she removed all breast tissue plus 4 lymph nodes, only one of which had any cancer cells in it, but not enough to truly call it positive, they said. There needs to be a 2mm cluster for that; mine was only 1mm. As far as I’m concerned, if there was only one cell there, that was one too many, & in my mind, quite positive.

As for the breast tissue, she removed all of it, said she got all of the cancer, & the pathology report declared clear margins around all the cancer spots; there were quite a few, 2 different types.

I’ve learned, over the past year, that most drs never really say “cancer-free” anymore; they say “No Evidence of Disease “ or “NED.” I’ll take it either way! YAY!!

The future will be what it will be, but I won’t live my life expecting cancer to rear its ugly head again!!

It’s only been 6 & 1/2 months since my last surgery (of 7), and I keep thinking I should be better than I am, then someone reminds me it was only 6 months ago, & I had a total of 7 O.R. visits in 11 months, with an enormous amount of anesthesia hours wracked up, & the last 3 times I experienced a full system crash after anesthesia & antibiotics were administered. More on that as The Journey Continues.

So, actually, I’m doing pretty darn well, all told!!  I’M ALIVE!!!  & functioning rather well!! Thank you, Father God!!!

The recovery & recuperation continues, & I continue to improve, slowly but surely.

The takeaway?

GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS on time, every time!!! If you’re a guy, make sure the ladies in your life do!!  Doing so absolutely saved my life!! It can save yours, too!! Look around you at all the ladies you know; current statistics are that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. Who will it be, one of the other 7, or you?

Don’t take chances! The earlier it is caught, the easier, less invasive the treatment, & you have less possibility of needing chemo or radiation treatments. Having said that, some cancers need those no matter how early they are caught, based on their type & aggressiveness, but early detection can also minimize how much chemo &/or radiation is needed.

Don’t let fear hold you back; it will give cancer time to grow!! Always be courageous!! You get thru it by taking just the next step, one by one.

Thanks for listening!!

Watch for the next segment…


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Health Mirror: Reflections on Health

To Which Mindset Do You Subscribe?

Back at the end of January, on my Facebook Timeline, I posted about a new Program coming out soon from our company, Skinny Body Care, to promote better health by way of weight-loss for teens. My post used a graphic the company provided showing two teen girls making fun of an overweight teen girl, suggesting that this is a form of bullying, which, in my opinion, it is.

One lady from one of my groups took issue with the concept that this is bullying, and also to the concept of encouraging teens to lose weight. She purports that we should be encouraging them to “accept themselves the way they are” and feel good about themselves, and not “put them down” for being overweight. She also stated that kids who are overweight are not really “bullied” by other kids for being overweight; kids will always make fun of each other for a while and then move on to make fun of some other kid in a few days. They shouldn’t be made to feel bad because they are overweight. We had quite a discussion about this, and finally I said we would have to “agree to disagree” on this subject. I then deleted the entire thread from my Timeline in order to keep the negativity of it off of my page.

So… I’ve been mulling this over ever since then; the more I thought about it, the angrier I got about it, and my thoughts on this have become crystal-clear!

There’s something I just have to say about it. I know that it’s not going to be universally agreed with, nor understood, because of the mindset of a portion of our society. Some will see it as “not politically correct” – which is a concept, in my opinion, way over-used and abused to further the sometimes nonsensical agendas of, again, a certain segment of our society.

I cannot worry myself with what anyone else thinks of me or what I am about to say. They will just have to decide to ignore me, I guess, or put me down for not being universally supportive of everyone, no matter what.

But here’s the thing…

They want those of us who are overweight to “love ourselves the way we are.”

I contend that, as “nice” as that sounds, it is not a HEALTHY mind-set, in any way, shape, or form. It follows the “No Losers” principle touted by the Politically Correct Crowd (one of which I am NOT) – you know, where everyone on the team is a winner just for playing, even if the other team won the game. That, however, is a whole other conversation…

MY OPINION:
Being overweight is UNHEALTHY, all the time, every time, for every person, young or old!!!

Seriously!!! Is there anyone anywhere who is really overweight (I don’t mean 10 or 20 pounds or so; I mean really a lot overweight), or obese, who is healthy??? Are they comfortable, physically? Do they “feel good” or even just okay? HOW CAN THEY??? I think not! Let me explain why I believe this…

I have personally been fighting the weight battle all of my adult life. It is not fun. It is not easy. It is mostly discouraging and depressing! I have known MANY people in my life who are in the same boat, and I have never known even one of them to be happy about it, ever! Well, let me re-state that. There was one very beautiful young lady who always seemed to be perfectly content with her size, and she stated that she was comfortable with her size, yet she still ended up trying to lose weight after a few years, following some serious health problems. She had some success a couple of times, and then just seemed to give up and “accept” herself again. My contention is that she was NOT happy with the way she was, was NOT comfortable, and was/is NOT healthy!

Personally, once I got above that 20-30 pound excess weight, I was no longer comfortable at all, and my health over the years just started to dwindle and went on a downward spiral from there. The heavier I got, the more uncomfortable I was! How in the world can anyone be comfortable with their stomach hanging down in front, or having thighs that rub together when you walk, giving you brush burns on your inner thighs, or running out of breath when walking or going up stairs? How can you be comfortable when your hips, ankles, knees, & feet hurt, swell, and are in pain from trying to support all the extra weight you are carrying? …when your back hurts from the extra weight you are carrying in your chest, stomach, and arms?

When we are overweight, especially if we are obese, we are NOT, by definition, healthy!!

Our society is ever-increasingly more and more overweight, and more and more unhealthy! Deaths from the complications of this malady have been on the rise for years!

Our children are getting heavier and heavier younger and younger. Heart disease, Diabetes, and other complications from overweight are becoming much more common at much younger ages. Our youngsters have begun to die from what used to be considered diseases of older people.

IT IS TIME FOR THIS INSANITY TO STOP!!!

There are many ways for this to be accomplished, many of which we can control on a personal level, and some of which need to be addressed on a societal level.

But the idea that we must “accept” it as normal, or even as “Okay” is just ludicrous!!!!!!

We need to first, realize for ourselves, and then teach our children that it is NOT okay to allow yourself to get to this unhealthy state of being, and we need to teach them how to accomplish being healthy and maintaining a healthy weight. It is NOT always our “fault” that we gain weight and cannot seem to lose it!! There are actual, real, and physical reasons why we get this way, and they CAN be overcome!!! We just need to learn how.

That is the reason this Blog exists ~ to examine, reflect upon, and figure out ways to change the view we see in the mirror.

What reflection do you see when you look in the mirror? One of shining health? Be grateful, and strive to keep it that way! Not so healthy? Then learn all you can and make any changes needed to regain and maintain your health and a healthy weight!! We will examine many aspects of this over time, and I welcome all who choose to join me on this journey.

Do you subscribe to the same mindset I do, the one that says overweight is NOT HEALTHY, and we should do all we can to overcome it, or to the one that says that it’s okay, and we should accept ourselves as we are, not strive to improve ourselves, and just get comfortable with the way we are, even if that means we are unhealthy and on the road to self-destruction and an early death from the complications of obesity and the diseases it spawns?

IT’S TIME TO FIGHT BACK, FOLKS!!! Let’s start a Health Revolution and MAKE A DIFFERENCE, for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Give them a fighting chance for their future!!!