Ready As I’ll Ever Be

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

When I get real nervous, I get skittish about people. I become very private and quiet. Maybe it’s foolish pride I really don’t know. I need people and I enjoy daily communication, the back and forth conversation to keep up with everyone’s life. Right now it feels scary to me. Having cancer has become real again. There has been a break while getting set up with an oncologist to begin treatment. I like my doctor, she’s a no-nonsense type of woman and at first she tought I was a wimp.

We met and she went over all of the piles of documents that have accumulated since this all started back on September 28th, 2010. We didn’t discuss too much about the actual cancer, we went right to the nuts and bolts of a treatment plan. I was honest with her when I told her I didn’t like to go to the doctor. That I had become phobic about having tests done for fear that they would come back with bad news. I was honest with her when I told her I stopped having mammograms for four years prior to the one I had in September. That’s how much I feared having tests done. Stupid. I was high risk for breast cancer yet I made a decision to take a break from doctors for a while. I had even discussed this with two of them. I just wanted to be left alone. The anxiety I suffered waiting for test results to come in made me uncomfortable and hard to be around. After my husband’s brain aneurism in 2006, I didn’t want to bring any more illness into my home. My brilliant solution was to stop going to the doctor. To stop having my annual mammograms done. Please do not attempt this at home!! Please learn from my mistake that it is not wise to stop taking care of yourself. It could be hazardous to your health. It was hazardous to mine. Now I’m paying the price for my negligence.

My new doctor can’t tell me when the tumor started to grow or even if it would have been found during these last four years of not being tested. My gut tells me I could have gotten this all over with last year. Regardless, I did eventually pick up the phone and make an appointment to have a mammogram done. My sister had come over the day before to say goodbye. She was leaving again for El Salvador, this time for longer than three months. We had a nice visit, enjoying our last get together for a long while. After she left, feeling her absence already, something came over me. It was very strong, I don’t know if it was a voice or a thought or what it was to tell you the truth but the whatever it was told me, “it’s time to start taking care of yourself Joanne”. The next morning I picked up the phone and made the appointment. I had become fully committed to start taking care of myself again. The only other time in my life I felt as “propelled” is when I took the CPR class after my dad passed away that led me to an amazing romp as an EMT with our local fire department. The outcome of my mammogram has not been a playful romp by any means yet I am still in awe of whatever it was that got me to start taking care of myself once again.

All of the above is very difficult to share. I am ashamed that I turned my back on such an important medical issue. I had given in to my fear only to have it come back and bite me in the ass hard. I vow to help others learn from my mistake and stay on top of their health as best as they can. I’m not afraid any more because if my stupidity can help another person it won’t be in vain.

After talking to my new doctor she started discussing radiation treatments and drug therapy. I listened as she described daily visits for the radiation for a period of six weeks, followed by estrogen blocking drugs for five years. At first I thought to myself, I’m off the hook. I’m not going to need chemotherapy. I’m not going to get sick and lose my hair. Then I spoke up. I asked the doctor why I wasn’t getting chemo. She told me that I wasn’t a candidate because my lifestyle was that of a woman in her mid 70’s.  I’m 52. Talk about a wake up call. She explained that her patients go to work, maintain a busy schedule and exercise. Since about half of my day was spent sitting on my butt, I wasn’t active enough to tolerate the chemo side effects. I learned that the more active you are, the better you feel. You are not as likely to get pneumonia than if you were laying or sitting around half the day. My moxie kicked in after hearing that. I told her I would do anything necessary to change my lifestyle in order to become a candidate for chemo. I want all the treatment I can possibly have now to help ward off a reoccurrence. It’s not that I want to be sick, tired and lose my hair, it’s that I don’t want to make any more mistakes with my health. With my life. I believe the doctor was testing me, to see how badly I wanted to get well because as soon as I declared my intentions to change she set me up to have the chemo treatments done. The last thing she said to me was, “we are going for a cure here”.  A relief I cannot describe. The chemo combined with the six weeks of radiation followed by five years of the estrogen blocking drugs will give me the very best chance to put breast cancer behind me, save for follow up appointments and testing.  Being me, I always want the best. Always.

Tonight as I type this is the eve of the first week of treatment. My stomach has been a mess all day with a nervous, butterfly feeling. A blizzard has struck the Northeast and is due to smack us with a large amount of snow and high winds until tomorrow evening. A final procedure I need is to have a port put in my chest for the chemo treatments to be administered. My veins are too small to handle the drugs. About five hours from now, in the middle of a blinding blizzard my husband is going to take me to Hartford Hospital to have this done. It is an outpatient surgical procedure, my third since this all began. Tuesday morning, December 28, I will have my first  of four chemo treatments.

Having my children behind me is the best feeling in the world. Vincent is going to help by feeding, watering and letting the pets out if I’m not feeling well. My oldest son Chris has just moved back home and he lives with my daughter Michelle. The two of them are only a phone call away and though I haven’t wanted to burden my children it’s a marvelous feeling to know they are there if and when I need them.  They have helped so much already, making me laugh or hanging out spending some of their time with me. My husband does what he can, the shopping and taking me back and forth to my appointments. My dear sister-in-law Debra visits and calls. My friends have been an unbelievable gift just being there helping me with the day-to-day reality of living with cancer. Yet, as I first wrote, when I’m nervous, I get skittish about people. Another mistake I make. I try to close myself off when I need people the most and as far as I can figure it out, I do it to protect them from my unpleasant issues.

Having cancer is difficult. There are times I feel like talking about it and other times when I need to forget about it and think about other things. Having friends and family, I want and need to know what is going on with them. How I can help if they have a problem. How I can share something great that is going on. My main concern has been that breast cancer is going to steal my identity and that I am going to make people feel uncomfortable. A person simply has to be comfortable engaging with another person. To date, no one I know has said or done the wrong thing. And that is because they have done something.  I feel like I have though, it is a learning curve beyond any other I can recall. I’m identifying my weaknesses such as hiding out when I feel down or scared. I’m learning how to keep busier, getting off the couch and getting out even if I feel tired and want to go back to bed. These bad habits must change and once they do there’s no turning back to the old ways. I simply am as ready as I’ll ever be to beat cancer. Even in a damn blizzard*.

                                           ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I thank each and every one of you for the part you have played to help get me this far. I have a long way to go and I know now,  I can’t do it alone. I don’t want to do it alone ❤

December 27, 2010

Coventry CT

*We made it and were 45 minutes early.  The blizzard  of the century did not meet the media’s expectations and the roads were clear.

  1. Everything you said Dani, right back at you. ❤

  2. dani says:

    I love you. I admire and respect you. I love you. I appreciate you. I love you. I need you in my life ~ no matter what. Whether you’re up or down, whether I’m up or down. We need each other. We love each other. *Hugs full of gratitude to and for you* & *Sparkly Sequined Squishy Hugs* ❤

  3. AJ H says:

    Thinking about you. I know you’re strong and that you’ll sail right through this. Thank you for sharing!!
    Love & Hugs!

    • Thank you AJ. The hardest part of all this is not knowing what to share and what to keep to myself. I’m trying to make sence of it all and keep moving forward. Writing a little bit about it helps. Love and hugs back to you. ❤

  4. James N says:

    I’m keeping you in my thoughts Joanne. You know where to find me and I’m always here. ❤

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