I think a lot about where I'm heading, where I want to be heading, where I should be heading and I seem to come across more and more quotes nowadays that make me stop and think.
The one that's got me thinking today is "Don't just survive cancer, learn from it."
Friday, August 19, 2011
It's been a few months since I've checked in, so I thought I'd let people know how I'm doing. In a word, good. Been riding my bike (did a couple more century rides) and my health has been good. Just had my latest 3-month blood test an my CEA levels were undetectable. Nice. I have been battling fatigue the past few months, but I think that's been due to lack of sleep, maybe not the best diet at time, and some work-related stress. Saw my primary physician to check into the fatigue issue, he ran a bunch of blood tests, and everything looked good - no anemia, diabetes, or whatever. He did ask if I snore (I do) and asked if it wakes me sometimes (it does), so he wondered if I'm just not getting good sleep due to sleep apnea. Doubtful, but perhaps. So, I'm adding a sleep doc to my medical posse.
The fatigue was a little concerning, because I would feel the same way I did when I was recovering from surgery or going through chemo. All the sleep in the world wouldn't immediately help - I'd wake with just tired, heavy limbs and just had no energy, even though I wasn't sleepy. I've had 3-5 bouts of this fatigue over the past 2-3 months and it gets old and a bit debilitating. The bouts last 3-5 days and it takes massive amounts of sleep to get through it. I'm blaming it on the chemo. Couldn't possibly be the fact that I just turned 42 and am no longer an young'un. (Could it?)
Other than the fatigue, I don't have many other side effects from treatment. I still have numbness in my feet at times, but it's getting less and less. I notice it after a long bike ride or after I've gone running. The numbness in my nether regions I thing is going to be permanent. There was some improvement in the first few months after surgery, but it's kind of plateaued. If I'm sitting in my chair all day at work and then get up and walk around, I definitely feel it. The feeling that I have down there most of the time is that of a gently pinching. Take your right hand and pinch your left foreman with your four fingers pushing up against your thumb. Not so hard that it hard, but hard enough that your left arm feels it. That's how it feels. But, that's it. No chemo brain or tingling in the hands or anything. Just the feet and my bottom-side.
I don't even think about the stoma anymore. I've got the irrigation thing down pat and I've got it down to about 25-30 minutes, which is pretty cool. I like having only two pieces of medical supplies (a stoma cap and an irrigation sleeve) to go through each day, instead of the 3-6 with a full bag system (wafer plus 2-5 bags/day). I feel better that I generate less trash and of course there's all the benefits I've discussed before about irrigating (no accidents, no walking around with a "full" bag, etc. etc.)
There are some minor annoyances with the medical supply companies, but that's nothing I can't handle. For example, the stoma caps come in boxes of 30, and I order two months of supplies at a time. Well, guess how many days are usually in a two month period. That's right, 61. So, I'm one short. Stoma caps aren't like laundry - where you can just reuse one for an extra day, you really need to have a new one each day. So, I have to order an entire additional box of the 30, and now I have 29 extra caps every two months. I could order two boxes the next month and wait until I need that third box again (in two years time I suppose), but it's a hassle to continually change my order, so I'll probably just build up a stockpile and then not reorder for a few months. A hassle, but like I said, small taters.
Went to poop group (my hospital's colorectal and anal cancer support group) for the first time in a few months. I hadn't gone for various reasons (busy, feeling pretty good), but I was in the building for my 3 month check-up, so I dropped in. I was glad I did. It was good to catch up with everyone I hadn't seen in a few months. Plus, there were some new people who had just gotten diagnosed and I got to hear their stories. Everyone's story and their response is different. I don't have much to add ("Hey gang, I'm doing great, riding my bike, etc."), but it's still good for me to keep going. I feel more centered when I walk out of there. It reminds what I went through and refreshes my post-cancer perspective.
And speaking of perspective, I really haven't been moving "forward" with my life like I had thought I would after finishing treatment. I had a mega-Things To Do List that I was going to tackle with reckless abandon this year to make up for lost time. Well, things haven't worked out that way. I'm rethinking a lot of decisions such as my job, where I live and do I even want to try and keep dating. I'm just taking things as they come and am trying not to get overwhelmed with things and take things as they come. No rush. No reason to go house hunting and waste the short summer that we get here in the PacNW, especially when I'm considering possibly relocating to another city. I was also in a mad rush to date again, but after making the rounds so to speak, I'm reminded again that you can't rush or force things and things have to happen organically. I'm alive, I'm exercising, I'm enjoying the summer here. I'm fairly happy. So there. I'm just going with it.
David Servan Shreiber, the doctor who wrote that AntiCancer book I've raved about died recently at 50. His death was due to a third bout with brain cancer.
Rest in Peace.
I just had my 42nd birthday, which I was happy to celebrate. From now on, I'm happy to just be around to celebrate my birthdays. A friend pointed out that 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, according to Douglas Adams. So maybe this year holds particular meaning for me, and that I'll find some answers (not that I even know that I have questions that need answering).
Oh, here's something cool. I finally got paired up with a kiddo through the Chemo Pal program with the Children's Cancer Association. My kiddo is a young little boy who has a neuroblastoma that he's been fighting since he was very young. I get to meet him next Wednesday, and I'm really looking forward to it. As a Chemo Pal, my job is to just hang out with him while he's getting treatment. The CCA gives me a gigantic duffle bag full of toys and he gets to play with the toys while I'm there. The goal is to add some fun to the visit and maybe give the kid's parents a little bit of a break while their son/daughter is getting some treatment. Volunteers don't have to be cancer survivors or anything - not at all, some are but most aren't.
So, what does the next few months hold for me? I plan on having a few more months of fun before winter arrives. I have two backpacking trips in Washington planned - a weekend trip with a college friend and a solo week long trip. It's been *years* since I've gone backpacking and am I totally looking forward to this. Cycling has been great fun, but you really don't get immersed in nature. You're still on a concrete road, passing buildings, getting passed by cars, etc. Don't get me wrong - cycling is fantastic, but it's not the same as getting lost (metaphorically speaking) in the woods for a bit. Can. Not. Wait.
After that, I'm heading to Las Vegas for a class for work (some work, some play - OK, maybe more than just "some" play), and then the next week I'm off to the Livestrong weekend in Austin, TX. It's where the Livestrong foundation is headquarters and this is their big fundraiser appreciation weekend. I haven't done any fundraising - just signed up for the 90-mile ride on Sunday. Really forward to that weekend too.
Then, hopefully - it's a marketing trip to the Philippines. That'll be a great experience, and I'm hoping to tack on some vacationing while I'm in SE Asia. The plan, if I can pull it off, is to skip over to Hong Kong for a weekend and then to Burma/Myanmar for a week. But, we'll see.
So, I'm getting out there and trying to enjoy life. I don't let work get me stressed out nearly as much as I used before I was diagnosed. I realized earliest this week that after my Austin trip, I will have visited pretty much all my close friends and family this year. It's a lot of traveling since they're all scattered to the wind, but it has left my very satisfied. I've been able to say thanks to everyone who supported me through all of last year in person. Support for which I'll always be grateful and will return should the need ever arise.
Here's to health, friends, family and enjoying life!