Week 1 – Marine Corps Marathon Training

Week 1 – Marine Corps Marathon Training

Monday – 5/21 – ah, nothing like a rest day coming as day 2 of training, hehehe, hohoho, bahahah. I won’t lie, I am sore from my run/walk yesterday. It is going to take about 2 weeks to get back into shape, until then, here we go. I will be using Hal Higon’s marathon training. Monday’s will be rest days. The training will go as such…

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday – short run
  • Wednesday – longer run or cross training
  • Thursday – short run
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – long(ggg) run
  • Sunday – cross train (walk, bike, yoga)

REPEAT

Tuesday – 5/22 – today’s 2 mile run has taught me two things…

  1. Always under dress, getting overheated is a really bad feeling, I wasn’t overheating however I was getting a little toasty because of the humidity from the rain.
  2. I need a hat with more aeration (in which I spelled airation the first time). Once I took my hat off the heat escaped and it felt goooooood. However then my wild hair came out and I don’t want to scare people.

Kim and I were walking in town to drop a few things off at UPS, get some fro-yo and then we ended up stopping at a local running store, Jack Rabbit (weird). We picked up some Nuun. It is for hydration purposes with sodium, potassium and magnesium. I have never had it before and I want to start testing out things that I like/dislike. I am wearing these Nike shoes right now, they are very light weight. They don’t have the bright pink color I have anymore. I wore these Fabletics leggings. They are very high wasted, a little heavy for summer running but they are awesome.

I am starting to change my diet and eating times based on running, ah, the good ole’ days! I woke up this morning and had half an english muffin (only half because Kim insists on getting the sandwich sized ones) with Jif low sugar PB and strawberry jelly with coffee and a little cream. I was drinking black coffee for a few months then put cream in it and DAMN THAT’S GOOD. I waited about an hour then off I went. Conditions were cloudy, about 65 degrees with rain on the horizon. Pretty perfect running weather.

On Monday I finished the run in about 24:30 with 4-5 walks and today I finished in about 22:30 with 3 walks. What a difference a few days can make!! My goal is to get down to 10 minute miles. After my run came more coffee, sautéed kale and potatoes with two eggs. SAUTEED KALE WITH GARLIC SALT AND PEPPER IS AMAZING. Also broccoli baked at 375 F for about for 45 minutes is amazing as well, it gets a bit charred and mmmmm.

Wednesday – 5/23 – there are far few things worse than a poor nights sleep, perhaps cancer. I am not sure if I drank coffee too late, or if since I ran out of allergy medication I did not sleep great. IDK. I was going to run 2 miles today but decided to rest. This is gonna be a slow transition.

Thursday – 5/24 – 2 mile run – 23:00 – I swear this run was harder than Sunday! Why?? Hillary said it can be many things; weather, sleep, hydration, food. My legs felt like they were 300 pounds (which they damn well might be). Ugh it was difficult. It was also pretty warm out. I need to get a hat with more aeration like I said above — goal this weekend. I ran/walked 2 miles then I walked a mile home. It was my boss’ birthday so I went down to the office after.

Enjoying what you do is a true gift. I love my job. I feel like I have hit the jackpot. It is my dream job and I got it at the age of 28 and it only gets better. I have open communication with my boss and we are growing the company together. Recommendation: if you don’t really like or love your job, find something else.

Friday – 5/25 – rest day. Does it seem like I am resting a lot, WELL I AM OKAY. Rest is important…. right? Anyway, every Friday in warm weather, I treat myself to an iced french vanilla coffee with cream from Dunkin’ Donuts. It tastes soooo much better when you don’t get it everyday.

Saturday – 5/26 – first “long run” of the training, 3 miles! May not seem long, but it is to me. I have been taking allergy medication every night, the rite-aide brand of zyretc, BECAUSE THEY ARE THE SAME THING. Anyway, I fall asleep every night between 11-11:30 pm, as I did last night. I woke up at 10:45 am!!!!!!! WTF. I am the person who can’t sleep in, however I guess now I can. I also wear ear plugs and wear an eye mask because, I am not really sure. Kim doesn’t snore. I just found that I have a better sleep this way, clearly I do.

So I woke up, had my coffee and same breakfast as before, 1/2 sandwich sized english muffin with PB and Jelly. I went for a run around 12:30 pm, when it was 87 degrees. Sigh. I bought this hat last night at Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s really good and has good air flow. Felt good going out for the run, hot, but good. I was trying to stay under the trees for some shadow. I hit 1 mile and felt good. Once I got near 1.5 miles I was feeling tired. I walked and then starting to do 0.15 run with 0.1 walk. At least it was the longest I have run at once. I need to get up earlier during these summer training months.

I was sweatingggggggggg. I tried the nuun hydration tablet flavor blueberry pomegranate. It was good, not sweet at all and very easy to slurp down. It also didn’t leave that layer of I don’t know what that gatorade sometimes leave in my mouth, anyone else know what I mean? I just signed up for a spin class at a local cycle place in Morristown for tomorrow at Simply Cycle, first class is free! I need to cross train tomorrow, which is walking, swimming, biking, anything other than running.

Sunday – 5/27 – Cross train. My cycle class was at 9:30 am. I set my alarm for 7 am as I was not trying to sleep until nearly 11 am again today. I didn’t sleep well. I don’t think I ate enough yesterday which is quiiiite unlike me. I woke up at 2 am thinking about chips and caesar dressing and eggs and english muffins, I wish I was kidding. I got up at 7:30 am, coffee, 3 scrambled eggs, half an english muffin and a peach. YUM. Food is so good. I tried the other flavor of Nuun hydration tablets we got, fruit punch, I like the blueberry pomegranate the best so far. The cycle class was great. The instructor’s music was perfect for every increase in speed.

First week of training went well. I feel like this next week will be easier and I will start to get into my groove.

I am only $1,090.00 away from my goal of $1,500. Click here to donate, any amount counts!!!!

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From chemotherapy to marathon training.

From chemotherapy to marathon training.

“Am I crazy?” I ask myself. “Yes” I say to myself. Okay, this wasn’t a real conversation in my head, you don’t want to hear the real conversations in my head.

On May 10th, 2018, my friend Drew died of stage 4 brain cancer. He fought for 14 months, his positivity was amazing, his family’s strength is amazing. I was not the closest person to Drew, there were many people ahead of me in that line. However, Drew and I will forever have the cancer connection. Drew wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon. A few of his best friends are doing it. On Friday night, I had the thought, “why don’t I run it?”. I always thought I would run a marathon but that feeling dissipated. I ran the Philadelphia half marathon twice. Christine and Hillary have both run the New York Marathon. This is it. This is the time. Drew is the reason, I am the reason, you are the reason. It is very difficult to get into any marathon however by raising money, you can. I am going to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Hillary and I are going to do it together, along with her brother’s Nick and Pete along with a few of Drew’s other friends.

I am running this marathon for Drew. I am running this marathon for my dad’s friend Joe Jablonski, whom I have never met but who lost his son Jason in November 2016 due to complications related to leukemia. I am running this marathon for my mother who has fought cancer more than once. I am running this marathon for myself. I am running this marathon for you.

I started my training today. I signed up for the marathon prior to getting the green light from my oncologist however I just got an e-mail – “For sure, good luck training, this is great!!”. I am so out of shape, I am truly starting from the bottom. I did a 2 mile run walk and then walked a mile home. I was running up a hill and it was HARD. I kept saying “do it for Drew” in my head and he helped me get up the hill (then I stopped because, damn, that was hard). The real training starts June 25th. I am currently training for the training.

I was never the type of person to donate to cancer research until I was diagnosed myself. Don’t be like me and wait until there is a reason. Cancer research is important to help people live longer and beat this stupid thing called cancer. Without all the research completed on breast cancer, I may not be here today. Please help me raise $1500 towards the American Cancer Society.

Click here to help raise money for cancer research. 

Kim, Drew and I.

A day worth blogging about…

A day worth blogging about…

I stole that title from my dad as he titled his e-mail to me that exact way, awkward.

Yesterday I had my final surgery. Yesterday was my last day of hell in this saga of burning fire. I had my final surgery to exchange my expanders out of my chest. The expanders were placed after the breast surgeon took out all the breast tissue in order to stretch the skin out for implants. The expanders were pumped with saline each week until goal size was reached. I also had two large, which were now considered one, cysts in my uterus that were attached to my right ovary, more like engulfing my right. We found these cysts when I did my PET scan to see if the cancer had spread. I never knew about them and they were pretty shocked about that. The gynecology oncologist could actually feel them inside of me upon physical exam. Did I mention he’s not bad to look at? However the first time I saw him I was having a terrible week crying everyday & oh bald, and the second time I forgot to shave my legs and look like a boy. Ugh. Oh, hi Kim.

Anyway, my surgery was on March 7, 2018. Of course there was a snow storm, OF COURSE there was. No better way to cool off hell than with a blizzard. I was not nervous at all for this surgery until 2 days prior. This surgery, while it was fairly invasive, was not bad compared to my first surgery. I hate to say it like this, but in my first surgery, the surgeon literally scraped the breast tissue out of my skin and muscle, removed 22 lymph nodes and cut my muscle up, that’s intense. I had two foreign objects place in my body and then had them pumped up. Oh, let’s not forget about the drains on each side.

I only started to become nervous on Sunday. Not terribly but, nervous. I was more nervous for this snow storm. What are the mother f*ckin’ chances. They don’t call you until 1 pm on the day before surgery, yes, weird. So I was VERY PATIENTLY waiting for the call. They called, 12 pm arrival, nothing regarding weather. I was e-mailing Ed back and forth, “should we go???? Should we borrow a truck??? Omg I’m nervous”. Response…. “stop checking the weather and get back to work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. Absolutely zero exaggeration on exclamation points, actually there may have been double. This was after many e-mails back and forth including one “you are in charge Kate”, always Ed, always.

Surgery was on. Kim and I got the hibiclens I needed to shower with the night before and morning of surgery. It is anti bacterial and decreases risk of infection.

I took 0.5 mg of an Ativan, I’m off them now, remember when I took it every night?? Good ole’ days… I’m legitimately joking. I was nervous and I needed to sleep. Dad was coming at 9:30 am, didn’t want to take any chances. Woke up, showered, dressed. Kim was still sleeping so woke him up with some hugs then continued to hug until dad came. There were tears but not many. The roads were clear. Only wet and no one on the road, oh yeah maybe because the state of emergency. We got in in record time, left at 9:25 am, arrives at 10:21 am. Wow. Parked, walked up. What a beautiful place the Josie Robertson Center. However I hope you never have to go there.

We sat down and were called in 20 minutes later. Ed brought his slippers, LOL. I bring my robe on every vacation and would bring it pretty much everywhere if it was not looked down upon. Anyway, we were brought up to the room. I was having deja vu, just weird. Walked past the hallway where my previous room was, not great feelings radiating towards me, but shot them down. In the room, changed into medical garb. It was 11 am, surgery was not until 1:27 pm (and the last number I saw on the clock before being drugged was 1:27 pm). Pregnancy test, still not pregnant, although seeing all the babies in our family makes my ovaries hurt, but maybe that was just the cysts??? I was poked twice, they couldn’t find a vein. Anesthesiologist came in, great guy. Gynecology oncologist came in, another great guy, plastics PA came in, not the actual surgeon because frankly, poor social skills, however his work is LIT (translation: best mastectomy boobs I’ve ever seen).

Around 1:15 pm it was time to go up. This is the second time I’ve walked up to my own surgery. I hate it. The first time was when I was getting the lymph node taken out to to be tested for cancer. I was hysterical. This time, not so bad however seeing all the people, instruments, everything… no good for Kay. I laid down and had a warm blanket put on, love that. The anesthesiologist was searching for a vein, they had to use a baby IV, the smallest one they make, because my veins were dead from being dehydrated. At this point I was looking around and started to cry. I’m 29, I’ve been through so much, why am I here? Thoughts I honestly don’t have too often but today, I did. The answer: it’s my path. I was borderline heavy cry but I didn’t let myself get there. The nurse started asking me questions, as they usually do. She eventually gave me a dose of something, then another, then I was out, waking up in recovery.

I don’t remember what happened when I woke up. I’m having flashbacks as if I was drunk and am remembering things. I think I asked, “where’s my dad?” and “did they find cancer?”. Right here and no were the answers.

Unfortunately, I did lose my right ovary. He said it would be a possibility because he maybe not be able to determine what is cyst vs. ovary. I’m a little sad about it but he said all you need is one ovary to make a baby. The cyst and ovary will still be sent out to pathology. I called my mom, have no idea what was said, lol. Probably “mommy I’m done! No cancer! I’m hungry”, I need to ask her. Then I texted Kim. LOL WAIT THIS IS FUNNY.

  • “Our baby”
  • “Love you”
  • “No cancer”
  • “One ovary our”
  • “Hooedully can have baby”

Drunk texts by Kay.

Honestly the rest is blurry. I think I was examined. I had to pee. Nurse helped me then I got dressed on my own. FaceTimed Hillary for 2.5 seconds and barely remember it. Nurse walked me downstairs and we were out of there.

We left at 8:30 pm. Ugh, you won’t even believe the rest. I was feeling pretty good. Again, nothing like last surgery. The most pain part was my pelvis and actually my port removal. I’m assuming the port because it has been in my for so long it must have attached somehow. Riding along, no major issues, then BOOM. Stand still on route 80. We used Waze and it brought us to a major highway that was BLOCKED OFF BY TO TRUCKS THAT HAD FALLEN OVER. We were on route 80 W from 9 pm to 12:15 am. No joke. I had to pee so badly from all the IV fluids I got, eventually I had to open the front and back door of the car and just pee. My bladder was pushing into my uterus and it was too painful. The traffic started to move and I was not done. Anesthesia actually makes it pretty difficult for you to pee so you have to push it out, kinda hard after that type of surgery. So I wrapped it up, moved the car up, and did it again, LOL.

At around 12:15 am, dad and a few others got out of their cars to see what’s up. I took pain meds again around 11:30 pm, my last dose of the heavy stuff. We were right in front of one of those police turn arounds in the median and said f*ck it. Turned around, got off at route 46, roads weren’t great but doable. Got back on route 80 wayyyy down the line and made it home at 1:30 am. HOLY CRAP. Thankful it wasn’t my first surgery. Thankful I like my dad. Thankful I had somewhere warm to go home to.

I wake up this morning with a drain on each side. Which was placed because the plastic surgeon removed some scar tissue plus it is still a pretty big surgery so fluid will rush to the site. When I heard I would have drains again, I was upset. Now, meh. I can do this.

I wake up this morning hungry, a little nauseous, thankful for my friends, family and Kim.

Also thankful for modern medicine.

To date, I have 10 scars, 7 tattoos, two foreign objects in my body and a new perspective on life.

I instagram storied my entire day, here are some highlights.

2018

2018

Wait, 1999 wasn’t last year? Does anyone else feel like that. Nope, 1999 was nearly 20 years ago. In 2018 I am going to be 30. “They” say your 30’s are the best years of your life. I hope “they” are right.

I never really supported “new year resolutions”. I think putting pressure on yourself to make big changes when you wake up one morning is a lot to do. However, this year, I’m on board. Why? Because during the month of December I didn’t work out, I ate like shit and I stopped caring. I need a restart. I need a new year because honestly, 2017 sucked (insert inappropriate body part here).

So now, I will give you my 2018 new year resolutions.

  1. Live, don’t just survive. I’ve been given a second chance thanks to research and medicine. I need to take advantage of this.
  2. Start caring about what I eat again. Yes, I’m a dietitian, but honeyyyy, I LOVEEE food. The good, the bad, the ugly. I need more veggies, more fruits, less sugar, more protein, more water.
  3. Greater than 5,000 steps 5 days a week, 10,000 steps twice a week (increase as the year goes on). It’s good to have reachable goals for this type of thing. Workout 3 days a week. Run twice a week. Also, don’t have goals like workout 7 days a week. This isn’t going to happen long term, sorry!
  4. Do not use my phone for one hour after I come home from work. I will be walking in the house saying “Alexa, set a timer for one hour”. I need to be more productive around the house. Also I’m addicted to my phone and it’s a problem.
  5. Stretch my arms, shoulders and chest 5 minutes before bed each night. I will be saying “Alexa, set a time for 5 minutes”. Fucking technology rules the world. I’m VERY tight after surgery and I want to prep for my exchange surgery and for life in general.

I think that’s good. I have everything else under control (haha, “under control”). I don’t want to set unrealistic goals, that’s when you fail and give up.

I also want to continue blogging. I don’t want it to be about cancer but of course it will still be there because, my life is forever changed. I want to talk about life, food, everything. I will continue to update on what’s going on in my life.

As of now, I have two more herceptin treatments, January 16 and February 6. I just scheduled my breast implant exchange surgery for March 7 (there were tears based on previous feelings but it’s ok), then, that’s it. Recover from surgery and follow up with doctors for 6 months then for 5 years then yearly after that. I can’t believe it.

2017 was the worst year of my (and a lot of our) lives. I don’t want to say 2018 will be the best year, because I have no fucking clue what is to come. I am going to wake up every day and appreciate waking up next to Kim every single day, in our warm bed, in a house we can pay for from jobs we both love with family and friends we appreciate more than they know.

This is what 2017 looked like for us.

One year ago today, I started chemotherapy.

One year ago today, I started chemotherapy.

When I think back to my first session of chemotherapy, I feel nothing but nausea and disbelief that I actually did it. Chemo was starting at 11:30 am in NYC. The doctor wanted me to start chemo in the city under their supervision before I switched to Basking Ridge. I don’t remember the night before chemo, other than tears and fear. I don’t remember waking up for chemo either. I am assuming my body has blacked it out. The feeling of waking up in the morning to realize you will have your first session of chemotherapy because you are 28 years old and have breast cancer, nah, I don’t need to remember that, thanks.

I remember dad driving into the city. I brought a blanket, as I had always thought you need a “chemo” blanket (hanging in our living room right now, it can stay in the living room but I will never use it again). We made it into the city and there were tears. Dad put his hand on the back of my head and said “it’s ok Kate, let it out”. We parked, walked in, got blood drawn, the first of many (many, many) to come. Did we meet with the doctor? I believe we did. Then, it was chemo time. Walked in, suite 8. I did not have my port then so it was all about finding the vein. Now this, this I remember. It was a young girl, brown, long hair, like I used to have. She was explaining everything I was going to get and then it sunk in. I AM GETTING CHEMOTHERAPY. I remember the feeling, as tears form in my eyes right now. How? Why? What? I cannot believe this. I started crying then dad started crying. I can’t imagine watching your baby girl being hooked up for chemotherapy.

I have to be honest with you. I have been on both side of this. Mom’s cancer and my own. Being on the outside is almost worse. When you are in it; you do it, you black things out, you sleep, you try to make it through each day and then you do it all over again. When you are on the outside; you feel helpless and everyday is painful. I know how everyone felt around me and I feel very, very bad that they had to go through that.

The young girl tried to find a vein, stuck me, and it didn’t work (forming a very large bruise that matched my blue dress for Christmas eve). Someone else came in, she got it. IV fluids were going. I was getting the pre meds, then the chemo, then… it was over. WAIT, THAT WAS IT? It really was anticlimactic. The hype in your head is just unimaginable. I remember being starving after and I got a latte and an everything bagel with ham, cheese and mustard. I can still feel the gross nausea after eating that. Will most likely never eat an everything bagel with ham, cheese and mustard ever again. Home I went, bed I went, survived I went.

I sit here, looking the Christmas tree, watching Scrooged (as you should too) as I write this blog and I honestly cannot believe where I was last year at this time. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I am so thankful that I still love it even though it was covered with such a dark cloud last year. Sometimes I find myself being able to read my old blog posts, but right now, I can’t. It feels surreal how much a year can change things. What will next Christmas be like? Who the hell knows.

Life now.

Life is good. It is often great when I am not feeling my neck, armpits, stomach, legs, arms or any other body part assessing for swollen lymph nodes. Yup, it is still happening, maybe not as much as before… no, no it is happening just as much. I think it will continue for a few years to come.

I shower… EVERY FREAKIN’ DAY. Why you ask? Well, it’s my hair. My hair stylist (hey John!) recommended I start putting in this wax like stuff because it needs to be tamed. So, I wake up and it feels dirty and it is WILD. So much more wild than having long hair. I even worked from home one day and showered, NOW THAT IS WILD. Oh how times have changed.

How is Kim you wonder? Is he still just as magical? Well, yes, yes he is. Kim is one of the most thoughtful people I know. He knows me better than I know myself and thank goodness for that. He puts my glasses on my work bag to remind me to bring them because every night I say “ugh, I need my glasses, I can’t see” when I drive home. He will make dinner based on something I said I was craving the week before. He will make said dinner, sometimes multiple courses, and have the dishes cleaned before I can offer (ugh, I hate it, but I do it for him). He will come home with a gift for me that I talked about 3 weeks ago. How? What? I often thought during this past year, that Kim was brought to me as a gift, as going through this at the age of 28 was so horrible, I deserved him, I earned him. Thank you.

These days… I am full force back into work. Our company has grown by greater than 100% in the last year and I am busy all the time and love it. My hair is growing back, slowly but surely. I really, really hate it sometimes and have been known to say “I looked better bald”. It’s just going to be an awkward phase and I understand that. Sometimes it is cute. I am still receiving HP (herceptin and pertuzamab) every 3 weeks. I have 3 sessions left (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). December 26 (boo), January 16 and February 6. Kim and I will be traveling; in January with his entire family to Florida for his birthday and a, thanks for being such champ this past year, and in February to Mexico. In March, I will be getting the cysts removed from my uterus and my spacers removed and implants put in. I met with the plastic surgeon two weeks ago, he said everything looks good.

Apparently there are new findings about textured, tear drop silicone implants. They are finding that they are related to lymphoma. My surgeon said, “3 months ago, I would have said get those implants, today, I say don’t”. Timing, is, EVERYTHING. I will be getting regular silicone implants. They think the “textured” part of it is the problem. By then, maybe I will be getting saline. Who knows. I have gotten my period again after almost one year of not getting it. This is a very good sign for potential babies in the future. As long as they don’t take my ovaries out when removing my cysts, which I am told is possible. What will be, will be.

A look back of the past year, the worst year of my life.

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When I first cut my hair after finding out I had cancer before telling everyone.
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The drink I had to suck down in order to tell me where the cancer was and essentially let me know if it was stage 4 or not (NOT!).
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The photo I posted on instagram letting everyone know I had breast cancer.
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My first day of chemotherapy. That shirt and hat have since been thrown out.
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One of the most surreal moments of my life. Kim shaving my head. DID THIS REALLY HAPPEN?
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True, true love.
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“If she shaves her head, I shave mine”
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Most days of my life the past year.
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Chemo = freckles
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I ate so much guys.
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Top five worst days of my life, getting my port placed.
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Hats all day.
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There were a lot of naps.
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So many baldies.
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The epitome of cancer, am I right?
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Now I miss this wig!!!
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A lot of tears, I think maybe all the tears I was allotted were cried in the past year.
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The large cysts growing on my ovaries.
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Celebrating the end of chemo and my boobs before they are gone.
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Fort Lauderdale Cancerlorette.
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Moments before my double mastectomy.
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Kay on heavy, heavy drugs.
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Boobless and bald.
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Tubes hanging from my body.
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I beat cancer, what’s your superpower??

 

Cheers to 2018, it’s going to be a better year.

Last week was… rough. 

Last week was… rough. 

I think I had a major depressive episode, defined as “a period characterized by symptoms of major depressive disorder: primarily depressed mood for two weeks or more, and loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, accompanied by other symptoms such as feeling emptiness, hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt” per google. Yup, definitely did. It truly all started when I couldn’t taste and I felt like I was falling through the cracks of healthcare (as I am sure many do) and I was left to fend off this cold on my own. Then, it was my 29th birthday. Usually my birthday is a momentous occasion, celebrated by multiple dinners, different groups of people and lots of delicious food. This year, I stayed in bed all day trying to “rest up” for our big night out to The Bernard’s Inn, a place I have been wanting to go for 3 years. However, I couldn’t taste a GD thing. I was in full depression mode at this point. Was I really “resting up” for dinner or was I so depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed? I am honestly not sure, but most likely the latter.

When I look back on it now, it felt like I was surrounded by clouds and I couldn’t get them to go away and it was like a vicious cycle. I was feeling guilt for feeling like this and knew I should get up and be productive but, just couldn’t. I couldn’t taste for 9+ days, which, really affected me in a way that maybe it wouldn’t others, but I truly love food so much. I stepped down from my management position a few months ago to simplify my life, however, simplicity does not fend well in my life. Sickness, lack of concern by doctors, lack of taste and missing the hustle and bustle of my previous position really caused this. OH, OH, OH, AND I GO TO RADIATION EVERY FUCKING DAY. There is that, don’t forget. I also haven’t been working out regularly due to exhaustion plus my skin is starting to become itchy and it will peel soon and they say you should not sweat. Sigh.

I eventually got an antibiotic from the NP at MSK and thought, maybe this will help. This was the same day I made the appointment with the psychiatrist, for October 16. Yeah.

On Monday, August 21, I told myself I had to get my life together, because honestly, no one else is going to do it for you (Rach agrees). I have had this journal for the past few months. I have gone in and out of using it, but it really makes you think. You wake up each morning and write down 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things that would make today great and then a daily affirmation. At night, you write down 3 amazing things that happened that day and how could the day have been any better. It’s all about being aware of your life and  surroundings, which is actually harder than it seems for some people. Hi, me.

Throughout the day on Monday, my taste was really coming back, HALLELUJAH! In the early morning, I talked to my boss who said, I need you, when can you take your old  position? HALLELUJAH!! It was my last full week of radiation, HALLELUJAH AGAIN. By the afternoon, my spirits were lifted, and the clouds were really starting to dissipate. I was turning into myself again.

Is it really as easy as that though? No, it’s not, but it sure does help. I have anxiety and depression, it’s a fact. I can get anxious at the drop of the hat for no reason. I remember when I started my first job, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a patient. I would be crying to my mom, going in on weekends, doing EXTRA because I could not stop thinking about it. Eventually, as I became more confident with my job, I felt better. This happened when I started my management position. Ask Kim (no don’t), I was A-N-X-I-O-U-S. Before we lived together, there was one night I was at work until midnight, and I called him on the way home saying I needed to be with him. For about two weeks straight I slept at his house because I literally could not fall asleep without him. That’s not normal. He gave me six months at the job to get it together otherwise I would have to rethink it. After a couple months, I felt more confident and fell in love with the job. The craziness, the issues I needed to solve, the abundance of new people I was meeting, it was amazing. This is going to sound weird, but it’s like the more craziness I have in my life, that I am ABLE to control, the better I feel. It fills my head and doesn’t allow me go off on a tangent of over thinking something else that is so minuscule.

Here’s the honest truth, we as a country, don’t talk about mental health enough. Be it depression, anxiety, or anything in between. Life can be extremely difficult and people don’t know how to ask for help and can get stuck in those clouds for much longer than 5 days. Be aware of those around you, your friends, family, and coworkers.

A few tips that I know help me, and maybe can help you in the future.

  1. Workout. Endorphins are real. I remember when I worked out in the morning before work 3-4 days a week, I NEVER felt better. Also, everything I read about life after cancer says WORKOUT REGULARLY.
  2. Do what you love. I know that some people have a job and some people have a career and there is nothing wrong with one or the other. However, if you are someone who has a career and are not happy, you need to move on. If it means changing total direction, then do it. It’s never too late.
  3. Stay organized. Last week I went to Home Goods and got a new planner. I started filling it out, making lists, on lists, on lists, on lists and I felt really good. My life is fairly busy and I have so many little things to do between paying medical bills, mailing out thank you cards, making doctor, dentists, any other appointments you can think of. You need a space to write things down, otherwise you may forget.
  4. Eat healthy. When you eat a well balanced diet; fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, you will feel better. If you eat high sugar food, fried foods, salty foods, an abundance of alcohol, you will feel it, and you won’t feel good. You are what you eat isn’t just a stupid saying, it’s real.
  5. Surround yourself with people that make you happy. This is one thing I have under control at all times. If you don’t help me grow and flourish, I will not be around you. Maybe it can come off as being cold sometimes, but that’s just the way it is.

Life will have its ups and downs, it will not always be perfect but, it doesn’t have to be that hard. 


Oh, and my hair is growing and I might be starting to like it. Happy early birthday PEG! 

Update: life after cancer. 

Update: life after cancer. 

They say I’m NED (no evidence of disease), they say they got it all, all the margins were clean, it’s going to be ok. So why do I feel like this?

What is this? Like I have cancer everywhere. Like I can’t believe I had to go through this. Like my boobs are gone and maybe it’s setting in. Like my hair is growing back, hooray, but it’s so fucking short and I miss my luxurious locks. Like I am falling through the medical cracks of life.

I just read my last post. It sounds the same as above however with a black cloud over it.

This feeling is just not what I expected. However, to be perfectly honest, I had ZERO thoughts about life after cancer. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, life… stops. My life froze and some days I don’t remember at all because they were so bad I blacked them out. Everything leading up to the day we had a plan were the longest days of my life. I actually don’t know how I functioned. Some days I didn’t. Finally, we got a plan. Okay, there’s a plan, let’s execute it. Each day was, “I can do this, I can make it through, I can make it back to my bed tonight”.

I remember saying, when the first portion of the treatment was over, the AC treatment, I almost didn’t want it to stop. It was like an abusive relationship (I can only speculate). It was helping me survive however hurting me at the same time. I started taxol weekly and it was just another countdown. Side effects not as bad and I was ok. It was the last treatment, and there we were. Time to recover and prep for surgery. Surgery came and went. They cut it out. The cells that were leftover after being murdered by the chemo were removed.

Radiation. Truth of the matter, it’s pretty much nothing. I go in every day (every mother fucking weekday) at 3:30 pm. I go into a room and get perfectly positioned by two people so that the radiation aligns with my tattoos. There are 5 beeps and I am done and I leave. I haven’t had any skin reaction yet which seems pretty good for what they have told me would happen. However, they said the redness and potential peeling of the skin would peak two weeks after the radiation ends. I have to moisture my boob, armpit, neck and back every morning and night. I am very tired from it, fatigue is a big side effect.

So why do I feel like this?

I go to the same place everyday at 3:30 pm, mentally, it hurts me. I’ve had a cough/cold for about a month now. They say it is unrelated to radiation which is true because it started before. It’s only gotten worse each day. I told my oncologist of the cough about a week and a half after it started, thinking I shouldn’t take anything, but she replied “take some cough syrup?”. I am officially no longer a cancer patient and it’s scary. Who am I? Where am I? Who will take care of me now? I do still see my oncologist every 6 weeks during my herceptin treatment, however, it’s very robotic. “You good?” … “yeah?” … “k good”. But what more do I want? I have no clue.

“This” feeling all started to sink in when my original primary care physician didn’t have any openings to see me for an appointment regarding this cough, which had turned into a cold and lack of smell/taste (the true, true horror that is also leading to this feeling). She also didn’t even have an opening for an annual and I was put on a waiting list for a call back. Ok. So, I will try to find another PCP. Took me two doctors to find one and I couldn’t get an appointment until August 29th. I took it because I was desperate. On the eighth day of not being able to smell or taste last week, I called MSK and said “I’ve been sick for weeks, I can’t get an appointment with a doctor and I truly feel like if I walked into an urgent care and tell them my medical history they would not want to touch me”. I don’t think I would want them to touch me either? “I feel like I am falling through the cracks”, my voice cracking as I try to hold in tears at work. That’s really how I feel. I’m not a cancer patient anymore (thank goodness), however I’m still receiving treatment. It’s just, hard.

I got an appointment, same day, this past week on Wednesday, August 17th at MSK. They asked me to come in at 12:30 pm. I’m sorry, I have to work, the same work that I leave early everyday to get radiation (anxiety). Okay, 2 pm? Fine, I’ll make it work. I got there at 2:05 pm, it was a little crazy. I checked in for blood work and started talking to a very nice, older couple (mid 70’s). The man’s wife has a type of nasal cancer. She is getting radiation right now as well. She is doing something called “proton therapy”. This type of therapy is in clinical trials which I could have chosen to do that basically decreases the depth of the radiation and focuses more on the problem. For example, mine wouldn’t go as deep into my lungs, which can eventually cause lung cancer. However, my dad did research and there really isn’t much evidence of this and if there is, it is in people who smoke, have cardiovascular disease, etc. Also, it is 20 more minutes away and takes an hour longer than usual treatment. Sigh. The man brought up how young I was and I explained the BRCA gene.

Eventually they left, this was around 2:35 pm, I was still waiting for blood. I asked what was up. She said I was giving blood at 2:30 pm and seeing the NP at 3 pm. Ummmm no, that wasn’t the plan, and I left work early. Ok, breathe Caitlin, breathe. Got in for blood at 2:55 pm and they said I just needed vitals taken, no blood. Ummmmm no, they need to check my white bloods cells. “Oh yeah, you’re right”. This is where the tears started. “I’m just so tired”, aka, you’re all pissing me off so much and I am having trouble digesting it as a normal human. Remember I used to say how tired I was all the time? Welp it’s back. The girl taking my blood was very nice. She said this will all pass and it will be ok and got up and gave me a hug. I went upstairs to see the NP at 3:05 pm and 15 minutes later they told me to go downstairs to get a chest x-ray. Sigh. Ok. I went back up at 3:30 pm and asked them to call down to radiation to tell them I would clearly be late for my 3:30 pm appointment. I sat until 4 pm until a girl came up to me asking me to go downstairs for radiation before seeing the NP. I picked my stuff up, looked at her and said, “this is getting a little ridiculous”. It just came out and I regretted it right away. I shot the messenger.

I waited for radiation for about 5 minutes. I was all lined up. Radiation started. About two beeps in the girl came in to adjust something and I was crying. “What’s wrong honey???” … “I just, I, I am having so many thoughts”. I had to sit up and it became harder and harder to breathe. I was having an anxiety attack and I truly had no idea why. They kept asking me what’s wrong. “I am just having so many thoughts. I feel like I am laying here doing radiation and getting cancer everywhere”. Oh, that’s why. They asked if I wanted them to call the nurse or doctor. No. Eventually, one girl said, “listen, I know how you feel, I’ve been there, I am a survivor too”. I said I was sorry and told them I can do it again. I finished, with tears continuing to fall down the side of my face. When I was walking out, I spoke with the girl again and she kept reminding me to talk to my doctor and be sure to express my feelings. I agreed.

I saw the radiation oncologist. I see her once a week, of course it was today. She walked in and said, “so you still have this cough, oh, and your eyes are red”. Yes ma’am. Tears. I asked her about the lung cancer, just to confirm. She said there is 1% chance. Phew. I felt like I made the wrong decision of not doing the proton therapy. Maybe I still have, however, it’s done.

I finally went back up to see the NP. I was called in immediately. It was 5:30 pm at this time. She walked in apologizing, it was so crazy and they had to send someone to the hospital. I said it was 100% okay, I was so thankful they took me same day. Long story short, she thinks I have something viral going on however she gave me a Z-pack to make sure no infection occurs. I told her how I have been feeling. She suggests I talk to the psychiatrist. Okay, not foreign to this girl. She said they would call me, perfect.

I was walking out of the office at 6 pm and I wanted to look for the girl who I said, “this is getting ridiculous”, to. She was gone, there was only one girl left. I walked up to her and asked her about the girl who was wearing a beige sweater, she knew who I was talking about. I asked her if she could apologize to her for me, tell her I am so sorry, I had a bad day which is not an excuse however she didn’t deserve that and I truly shot the messenger. She said she would and she will e-mail her right now and smiled.

I left feeling, a little better. My eyes HURT. My forehead was sore from crying for probably 3 hours. Kim and his parents were at the golf club and he wanted me to come and ride around in the golf cart. Thank goodness. The weather was beautiful, I needed to get out and I needed to breathe.

Life after cancer is … different. It’s a new world and big transition. MSK called me to make an appointment with the psychiatrist and she only goes to basking ridge once a week so the next appointment is…. October 16. That’s not ok. I told Kim and he said, “well they have a lot of patients” … right, so invest in more psychiatrists. We clearly are all going through some major shit, help us. I am going to look into someone else in the meantime of course but, sigh.

I know I will get through this. I will become the new Caitlin O’Neill. I will help others get through it as well.