Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just another constant reminder

I was at a friends cancer charity event over the weekend. It was a classic wooden boat show honoring my friend's mom. I got there early in the morning, well early for me on a weekend, and set up banners for the radio station that I work for and was going to do call ins to the radio station to let our listeners know about this cool event. The weather was beautiful and the boat show was a success, they raised a decent amount of money for a first annual event. My friend was happy that I was able to help out and invited me to the after party at 7pm, which was about 3 and a half hours from then. While I really wanted to go, I couldn't. While I had finished up my treatments on December 29th 2007, the side effects of cancer and chemo are still there.

We were wrapping up when the fatigue hit me. I don't usually get tired easily anymore but this sneaks up on me, kind of like that annoying uncle at your family bbq who comes up behind you and hugs you and knocks the wind right out of you. That is one of my side effects if I push myself, and sometimes I don't even think I am pushing myself until that happens, like uh uh, nope sorry, you are having too much fun, and you are feeling too much like yourself, so WHAM, there you go. The only way to counteract that is to lay down or nap. So no after party for me.

After leaving I went home to lay down. When the fatigue happens and I lay down, it is like my body is saying ahhh ok now lets try to relax, but relax to me and relax to my body are apparently two different things. I picture relaxing as just laying in bed and listening to some good relaxing music, like George Winston or Vivaldi, my body decides to let me know just how much I pushed it today, but making it feel like almost every nerve ending is awake and alive. Not easy to relax at that point, but eventually this ceases and I am able to nap.

The last little constant reminder is neuropathy. The Mayo clinic.com defines it as "Peripheral neuropathy, in its most common form, causes pain and numbness in your hands and feet. The pain typically is described as tingling or burning, while the loss of sensation often is compared to the feeling of wearing a thin stocking or glove." (Ironically I got this little side effect AFTER I was done with chemo, yeah, ha ha good one...)

Yeah that is what I have, I used to have it only on my right side in my hand and my leg. I don't have it in my hand anymore, but I still have it in my foot, it does feel like a tingling sock. It used to run up my leg and hurt, but now it just tingles and my foot occasionally goes numb, it doesn't hurt and it usually doesn't stop me from doing things, although I decided to opt out of a 5k that my friend and I were going to do in a couple of months, that and the fact I had no time to train were my deciding factors.

Tonight I will go to bed and lay there and as I drift off to sleep my right foot will tingle and be my little constant reminder of what I have been through.

I know I am lucky, if I miss a party or two because of this then that is ok, yes it is frustrating, but I can wake up in the morning and know every day I am getting back to "normal" or at least the new normal that all of us cancer survivors understand.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Seven Stages of Grief

Originally posted on STUPIDCANCER.COM

I go to therapy once a week to deal with being a survivor. It does help me, and a couple of weeks ago my therapist and I were discussing the 7 stages of grief. Let me explain how that all relates to me.
1. Shock and disbelief Well duh, when I was diagnosed I was in shock, who wouldn’t be? I was in the best physical shape I ever was in my life, found a lump and never even thought cancer. Nothing like calling the doctor for your test results and my doc asking how soon I could get to the office? I was pretty sure it wasn’t for anything good, like hey our receptionist Carla just brought in some extra brownies that she made for her daughters bake sale, would you like some, and we can go over your test results! No, they save the bad news for the office, not on the phone, so you enjoy that long car ride, knowing full well what the news was when you got there. Even the doctor who did my biopsy was surprised, he said that he had been doing biopsys for 20 years and only 5 patients diagnosis surprised him. “Never tell me the odds” I thought to myself, quoting one of my favorite characters Han Solo.

2. Denial Ok we all had those holy shit I can’t believe this is happening to me moments after diagnosis, but once you are fully steeped within everything it is hard to be in denial. It was difficult to deny I had cancer when I had a drain safety pinned to my shirt after surgery and I slept on the couch for a week because it was the only place I was comfortable sleeping. I couldn’t deny I had cancer when the chemo treatments made all of my hair fall out, made my pee turn red, and I was constipated for a week. How could I be in denial? I was too damn tired to be in denial (yep fatigue from the chemo)

3. Anger I had a lot of pent up anger anyway, from not being able to play hockey, so the fact that I now had cancer just added a cherry on top of the anger sundae. Dealing with surgery, chemo, radiation, baldness, fatigue, co workers, family, friends, and just myself in general made me pretty angry. I would get angry for no reason at all, I am sure we, being survivors have all experienced this. Being out of toothpaste would just sometimes bring me into a fit of rage. I would get angry just for having cancer, to have to deal with all of this. Thank goodness for prescription medication.

4. Bargaining Maybe if I swear less, call my Mom more and be a better person in general I wont have cancer, do you hear me God? I tried to make promises, but I still had cancer. Bargaining doesn’t work and it doesn’t make you feel any better, I think I bargained for about a week, and gave up.

5. Guilt I don’t get this one. Why would you feel guilty if you have cancer? Its not your fault

6. Depression Yeah I got depressed, who wouldn’t? I had cancer, and I was trying to figure out the “new normal.” A whole year of my life would be dedicated to treatments, that’s a long ass time. Once again thank goodness for prescription medication.

7. Acceptance I finally accepted the fact that all of this crap happened to me, and I think I am a better person because of it. Would I have liked to become a better person with out cancer? Well hell yeah, that is a freakin no brainer.

Mel is the producer of the Vic McCarty show on www.wmktthetalkstation.com Monday through Friday 10am-Noon eastern standard time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I am Ripley

This blog was originally posted on stupidcancer.com

I am a fan of movies, tv, sports and popular culture. My head is filled with useless information that would only be good if we were playing trivial pursuit (Do people still play that anymore?). I suppose you are wondering what the reference in my title means. I have been thinking about how you are never cured from cancer because, well, there is no cure. So I am like Ripley, the main character in the movie Alien. I have fought the beast and won, but is it over? Is cancer really gone from my body? Is it eradicated like the Alien at the end of the movie, blown out into deep space? Are there other Aliens out there somewhere… lurking ready to strike when least expected?

Cancer is like the Alien from the movie. It is big and scary and you don’t really know how you are going to deal with a big ugly monster like that until you stare it in the face. Do you run and hide and hope that it wont get you? Or do you stand and fight and kick its ass?.

I chose the latter.

I am Ripley.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What a difference a year makes...

This past weekend I was in the fourth of July parade. I was part of the Relay for Life float. It is the second time I was a part of the parade. Last year I was still going through treatment and I was so tired I couldn't even walk the parade route. I rode on the float with another survivor, an 8 year old girl. Its not that I was embarrased or anything that I was riding on the float. I was pissed off that cancer wouldn't allow me to walk.

Actually it wasn't cancer, it was hypothyroidism, which was probably a side effect of radiation, so it was because of cancer, indirectly, not directly. I was so tired that I tried to take a nap before the fireworks that night. It was hard to nap in the car. Parking sucks during the holidays we didn't want to lose our parking spot so we relaxed in the car until it was time for the show.

But back to this year. I started the day off at 10am in at the Dog look a like contest in Harbor Springs. Vic was the emcee of the event. After that I walked around with a friend at the art fair there. I stayed in Harbor Springs for about 4 hours until the parade started then I jetted out of there to go home to relax before the Petoskey parade.

I relaxed and watched some bad movie on cable then went to the location where the float was lined up for the parade. The day was beautiful and I was reminded of how I felt last year, how tired I was, and how bound and determined I was to walk in the parade, not ride in the float.

So yes I walked proudly in the parade. I actually walked a lot that day. Once the parade was over Doug and I walked around town until it was time for the fireworks, stopping of course to eat
and enjoy some ice cream on a nice hot summer evening.

The fireworks were awesome and they were the perfect ending to the weekend, which was also Doug's birthday weekend.

What a difference a year makes.