11.19.2012

Running with Neuropathy

I used my master detective skills and Googled "running with neutopathy" early on in my treatment.

Because neuropathy seemed to be the one lingering side effect that so many people complained of, I was looking for some first hand testimony. Google failed me then and continues to fail me now on so many levels. I think I might be ready to break up. I've been dating a little someone special on the side called Bing, and am thinking I might be Binging everything I need to know in the near future.

There was no doubt when treatment ended that I had trouble feeling my fingers and toes and the bottoms of my feet. But hey, was I going to let that stop me from getting my groove back? No excuses for this girl, people! If I can do it with numb feet, anyone can do it!

I don't mean that. If you can't feel your feet, do not try running. Even if you can feel your feel, I know a few of you that should probably avoid running unless being chased.

I figured Spinning would be safe, as my feet were strapped into cycling shoes and clipped into pedals. Who needs to feel feet when they're locked in?

But apparently running with neuropathy is still a little questionable. I've been heading out for a few miles here and there, taking baby steps back onto the pavement. I'm even trying to make peace with the treadmill. And based on what happened a few weeks ago, perhaps I should take something smaller than baby steps or even heed my own advice and stay home.

Or maybe I just shouldn't look down at my Garmin while running on broken sidewalks with feet I can't feel?

Thanks Google, but I answered my own damn question. How does one run with neuropathy? Apparently very carefully.
For some reason, this photo doesn't do the sight of it or the pain justice. I'm just grateful for that last minute decision to wear capris over shorts. I'm also thankful for Advil and ice packs.

I don't think I've fallen flat on my face in at least 6 months as an adult.

11.07.2012

Cee Tee Three

The family that prays goes to the oncologist together, stays together!
Scanxiety: the tension which builds particularly amongst those who have or have had cancer as they move towards their regular check up scan, hyperscanxiety being the period as they await results! 

Boy I missed this...said me NEVER!
Not sure why the definition ended in an exclamation mark, as that implies excitement. The only thing that's been excited today is my heart rate.

Though this scan was just routine and I was given no reason to worry by my oncologist, I couldn't help but feel this scanxiety I hear so much about in cancer circles.

Not the same anxiety I felt walking into the infusion room that made me want to find the nearest trash can, but the kind that bombards the mind and takes over thoughts and temporarily takes you to the land of "what ifs" until you can snap out of it.

I think the anxiety boiled down to the discovery of something new.

In the case of this third scan, it wasn't so much the new that has raised some eyebrows, as there isn't anything new. So that's good. Yeah. Exhale. Just a little bit.

With that said, the all-to-common-in-normal-people nodules in my lungs are still present as permanent additions to my chest. Though the second scan in January showed that they weren't growing and could be written off as little calcified nodules, one of them just had to stand out from the group and measure a different size this time. It's either growing or giving the appearance of growing. Now I can finish exhaling.

Before anyone starts getting all sorts of crazy, know that it could be months and months before anything comes of that little renegade nodule or its fate.

First and foremost, my oncologist let us know it could just be the way the CT scan was cut. These things are being measured in millimeters, and considering that most of you reading this can't even count millimeters without the aid of glasses, let's not put too much pressure on the CT scan to perform here. So there is the chance that the cuts are just a little different from my previous scan, making the nodule look like it's grown a few millimeters when it has not grown at all.

I envision a little fat pocket in a spiral cut ham. Depending on where the spiral cut hits, that little round ball of fat can look bigger or smaller. So perhaps the cut was a little off and this little nodule just got dissected in a different spot. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.

The second possibility is that it could be cancer. But because this possibility is months off from actually becoming more than a possibility, my doctor did not appear to be overly alarmed, rushed, pressed or urgent in his actions. I'm sure if he felt a sense of panic, he would have addressed it immediately instead of sending me off to worry and wonder for the next few months. Clearly he knows that I never over think or over analyze anything!

The next few months are going to be lovely, because I didn't have anything else to occupy my thoughts with during that time.

In February, I'm going back for another CT scan. With the scan Monday confirmating a clean and clear abdominal region, he said I could skip that tasty liter of toilet water oral contrast and just get a chest scan. If only all this radiation would make my boobs magically grow, it would save Kyle from having to buy me some later.

Should that scan show further growth in that one naughty rogue nodule, we will take it up a notch and I'll hang out in the PET scan machine. If that machine doesn't grow me some boobs, Kyle better get out his check book!

So for the next 3 months, I'll walk around in that all too familiar cloud of the unknown that cancer is infamous for producing. The silver lining of that cloud is that I have 3 whole months to prepare for what may come or what may not come. In the end there may be a big medical climax that results in a big pile of nothing to worry about. I will be ready for the next step regardless.

One more scan down, a lifetime of them to go!

How much I love thee, let me count the ways. Now get your heads off this dirty couch in the oncology waiting room!

11.05.2012

The Third Baseline

After that little vacation where I pretended that I never had cancer, I'm jumping off the high dive this week and back into that strange little world.

I've walk back into a hospital and sat in a room I've sat in twice already. I'm drinking the magical liter of tainted water that will make those cancer cells glow in the dark, should there be any that want to glow. Should there be any at all. The water is room temperature and taste about one grade lower than what you might get out of the bathroom sink.

My first two visits were amidst confusion and worry and concern and the unknown. I sat there sick and frail and in shock. I laid on a table and tried to feel empowered knowing that the enemy within had been discovered and its time was now limited. But I was still scared and cold and laying on a table all alone knowing that my fate was being sealed by some fancy tube and some injection that gave me the feeling I might be urinating on myself. Or was that just the liter of water I drank?

There I discovered that two of the harder aspects of cancer are the unknown and waiting. Lots of waiting.

The second visit was after my grand sigmoid removal and belly button renewal project, and explored little spots in my lungs to determine if they were just a common occurance present in a good number of healthy people, or something growing that might also be called cancer. I expect those common little nodules will be admired again, and hopefully just for fun again.

About as tasty as toilet water, but better than barium.
This third visit will establish my baseline scan. My oncologist has no concern for finding cancer, or so he says. I am merely being radiated again to establish where I am post-treatment and have a scan to which all future scans can be compared.
 
Though my medical team sees this as routine and has no reason to be concerned or expect anything more than another clean scan, I can't help but mentally and emotionally prepare for unexpected news. I think I learned my lesson early on in the journey with cancer; you can't naively have expectations.

This CT scan has forced me to get that box out of the attic and open it a little. Then on Wednesday, after I cathartically blog about my follow up with the oncologist, I will put the lid back on and toss it up into the attic again. Maybe I can just be a part-time cancer survivor? Or only be one when it suits my fancy or is required by medical professionals or questionnaires.

It will only be a 48 hour wait between my time alone in a room being scanned and my next follow up with my doctor. And I know that somewhere out there on the information super highway are imagines of my insides being zipped around--fate in hand. Assumingly with no glowing parts. Hopefully with no glowing parts. But none the less, prepared if there are some glowing parts.

11.02.2012

A Normal September

Oh where, oh where did the Colon Cancer Chick go?

Oh where, oh where did she go?

Easy, she went in garage, grabbed an empty Amazon box, put this whole chemo and cancer experience in it, taped it up and threw it in the attic so it could collect dust.

Over the last 10 weeks, I've thought about that box when I looked at the fading PICC scar on my arm. I've groveled at it as I tried to make all the new little baby hairs growing back not stick straight up with frizz. I've contemplated it every time my feet would go numb or I'd sit down and stare at the long list of blog ideas I need to start on.

My inability to emotionally process the last 10 months has left me with a serious case of writer's blogger's block. I've had no desire to talk about something that I'm currently hiding away in an imaginary box in the attic. There's a reason it's up there with the 18 boxes of Christmas decorations I make Kyle drag down every year. Because don't know where else to put it right now.

And here I thought I would have been so empowered and inspired and angry and motivated by my experience. Never did I think I would immediately put the experience behind me and move on with my life like it never happened. No bracelets, no t-shirts, no bumper stickers. Not even a 5K yet.

It's not that I don't want to be empowered and inspired and angry and motivated. I'm just having a harder time integrating my cancer experience into my return to normalcy, so I've elected to put it all away for now.

For now I say. I'm still a little new to this side of the journey so I have no doubt that soon and very soon I'll start emerging from the shell I feel like I'm hiding in. Leave it to me and my aggressive personality to feel like I've fallen short for not climbing the post-treatment mountain already!

Maybe I need to go to a 12-step group for cancer survivors where I can stand up and even admit to being one. 

In the mean time, I'm following through with all my plans to regain my strength, regain my health, regain some weight and be the girl I remember before all this started.

For you visual types who drifted off after than first paragraph, the last 2 months have consisted of things like this.


Ellipticalication.
You Spin me right 'round baby.
Running and tripping. Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip...and I tripped.
I've been having some romantical pool dates with KY. Even sharing a lane with him at times. He says I'm much nicer about sharing a lane than I am about sharing a bed. What can I say, there's less snoring and farting in the pool.

And these little passing reminders of months past:


PICC scar-be-gone.
Celebrating what little bits of whispy hair I have left during a visit to my beloved Minneapolis!
Every morning I make evil angry eyes at all the baby hairs. I glare at these wiry springs and attack them with a flat iron while reminding myself to be GRATEFUL I only have a few million growing back in and not a whole head.

And then there's those other crunchy things that can't hurt after all the other crap that I've put in my body:

A little electrodermal screening.
A little homeopathic-crunchy-natureopatic-alternative care.
A little infrared sauna-ing.
I hate to disgrace cancer survivors across the globe, but I almost feel like the last 10 months never happened. I've blocked it out for now so I can get this train moving again. I know I'm canoeing down that river named denial, but let me enjoy the paddle for now, keep my memories in that taped up box and pretend that life is normal. Eventually I'll get to the point where talking about treatment will get easier and won't make me cry. But for now I'll just work on rebuilding myself elsewhere.

I'm sure some cathartic blogging can't hurt in the mean time.