March 4th of last year I went for a mammogram that turned into a needle biopsy that found my breast cancer tumor.
Gerry and I took this photo while we were waiting … we had no idea our world was about to be turned upside down.
Cancer-versarys are weird. I’m so thankful we found the tumor. That we had it removed. Thankful I’m alive. But also so mad.
Mad that I had to have such a body-altering surgery. That chemo/radiation made more more sick than I’ve ever been in my life. Mad that chemo/radiation WRECKED me physically and mentally.
I’m thankful that the nausea has passed but I’m pissed that I have zero interest in food. I get no joy from eating anymore. 🙁
Then I think about my friends sister who started her cancer treatment around the same time I did. She passed away this week. It’s heartbreaking… I’m lucky to be alive. I should stop complaining and just be grateful.
I went to see my oncologist on Monday to talk about the Tamoxifen and my bad reaction to it. I asked her to explain again why I need to take it and it’s a numbers game.
If I had just done my mastectomy and no other treatment… there would be a 50/50 chance of recurrence. That’s 1 in 2. But because I did chemo/radiation that brings my numbers down to 35/65 chance of recurrence. That’s 1 in 3. And if I add Tamoxifen to the mix: that brings me down to 20/80 chance of recurrence. That’s 1 in 5.
So it’s kind of a no-brainer. Except that when I took the Tamox – I was in agony and it would be impossible to function like that.
So Dr. B suggested we switch brands. I first took Tamox (TEV) and this time I am taking Tamox (APO). She said that she’s seen woman take one brand and be fine and then they switch to another brand (for whatever reason) and they can’t handle it. So I agreed to go back on Tamox but we are starting slow. I am taking 10mg (instead of 20mg) a day for a month and we are going to see how I do.
She said even a little Tamox is better than no Tamox.
Gerry and I got home from the appointment and I totally melted down. Just the thought of going back on Tamox triggered something so dark and scary inside me. I am so afraid of the pain/joint flare ups I had the first time I took it. Ugh. It gives me so much anxiety.
In the middle of my melt-down I actually told Gerry he should leave me because I’m a genetic dud and he deserves a better wife. Oh man. I was so low. I sobbed my face off for about an hour. I couldn’t stop crying … So Gerry shoved an Ativan in my mouth and 2 minutes later I was fine.
I kind of love Ativan.
When I took my first dose of Tamox I got immediate gut-rot (like I did with the other brand) and I could feel my body panic. It triggered so much anxiety that I crawled into bed and spent the entire day there. I lay in the dark with Fergus curled up beside me … Ugh.
Then I looked at my calendar and realized that it was the anniversary of the day I had my needle biopsy. That was the day the doctor held my hand after he punctured my breast and said “It’s definitely something. I wish you lots of luck.” That horrible fucked up day is stuck in every cell of my body. Of course I am feeling all these feelings today. This was the day when everything changed. I am full of so much grief.
This morning Gerry said to me “You can try taking this pill for 1 day. 2 days. 2 weeks. You get to decide.” but all I can think is that if I don’t take this pill … I’m going to die. That is so much weird crazy pressure to put on myself. It’s not fair to do that.
So today when I took my Tamox I looked at it and said “Go to work little friend. Do your job.” and while my Tamox is making sure that my body doesn’t make anymore cancer … my job is to not get so hyped up and anxious that this is going to be a repeat of last time.
I took my pill yesterday and had gut-rot again (yes I’m taking it with food) but instead of obsessing about it I took Fergus to the beach for a walk. While I was at the beach I got a call from my surgeon about removing my port.
Fantastic! That’s a step forward right? …It’s a reason to celebrate but instead I’m filled with more anxiety.
They remove it with a “local” and a small incision and then they pull it out. WHAT THE WHAT?! Isn’t it connected to my jugular??
The nurse assured me it’s easier to remove then put in. I told her I would be taking ALL of the Ativan. She said that would be fine.
March 4th 2013 was the needle biopsy. March 6th was confirmation of my cancer. March 14 I shared my bad news with the world.
March came in like a lion and never left…
All year the nurses have been telling me that cancer is a marathon not a sprint and I’ve been trying to pace myself but today I am officially out of steam.
I follow your posts and have for years. I was really upset when you got cancer coz I have met you and dream you and Gerry are my friends and vegan. Right. I never post because I have no personal me experience with cancer. Friends. Family yes but not me. But I do have experience with marathons so I post today. When an endurance race there comes a time when you are putting one foot in front of the other. That is all. You can not look any further. You don’t quit because you don’t. You can’t. But you can not imagine going forward. Everything hurts. One foot. One small step. Relentless forward motion. I sing with Dora just keep swimming.
You are so sweet. Thank you.
Sarah, I have been following your journey since day one. I even posted my breasts on Instagram in honour of you… and believe me, from a shy gal… that was amazeballs (I’ve been married for 20 years, and that was the first time I’ve ever seen a shocked looked on my husbands face!). But as amazing as that was for me, it’s not as amazing as you.
You have shown such strength, grace, and honesty of your experiences this past year with all that you have endured. The world flung everything it had at you and you fought back, sometimes on your knees, but still â€” moving forward to a day when this would be over.
It’s okay to borrow, and lean on the strength of others when your strength needs to be replenished. You have lived a life of giving to others, and this year for you, one where you have had to focus on yourself entirely, has to have been incredibly difficult.
Try to enjoy the moments. The days will take care of themselves. And one of these days, hopefully sooner than you expect, you’ll find you have all the steam you need and more. <3 <3 <3
You are so sweet. Thank you.
I’m so sorry Sarah 🙁 It’s awful that you’re going through this. I hope the new Tamox doesn’t cause the extreme problems that the old one did. I hope the port removal goes well and easily and quickly. Love and light to you xx
Sarah, i think you are so awesome and i have been inspired by you and Tanya for some time. kick this things ass, girl!
I’ve kept up with your journey and while I can’t directly know how you feel I can share with you my Mom’s story.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, she beat it. Until many many years later, 12 to be exact, it returned, this time stage iv. I was living in LA at the time and she called and said I need you. I packed up my little Saturn wagon and drove back to South Carolina where she was living. She was given a year to live in 2002. She had a fairly large tumor (5 cm?) in her liver and some bone mets. When they talked about treatments Tomxifen was one of them.
It was harrowing and horrible to see the agony in her eyes and the anger. She changed her diet and way of life completely changing her own diet from meat-eating, ice-cream loving women to a vegetarian, all organic diet. she would make herself a shake each morning of soy milk, a banana, and this medical strength soy powder of some sort and tomixfen and she started taking laetrile-b17 in powder form (btw, not avail in the US).
Flash forward, my mother has three times now, had a liver tumor return and she’s been able to fight them off (as in the tumors shrink and disappear) with her tamoxifen, laetrile and down right stubbornness. Currently, the doctor has labeled her with no active cancer in her body. Twelve years after getting a one year sentence. I am blessed to talk to her everyday and honor her by sharing the miracle of her life. From a daughter who loves her mother, I hope you are able to continue to be strong beautiful and open and positive on your journey. You are a miracle.
Thank you. Lots of love to you and your amazing mum!! I’m googling Laetrile right now!!
I understand your anxiety about removing the port. I had breast cancer 13 years ago, and waited over a year after chemo to have it taken out. Yes, over a year of going to the doctor’s office to have it flushed every month, all because of my anxiety over having it removed! I think anyone who has been through cancer treatment experiences unexpected emotional reactions to medical procedures, and it is completely understandable. Removing the port was just as easy as the doctor described, and afterward I felt so free! It was another step that helped me move forward to living my life free of cancer.
Thank you for the pep talk Sheila. 🙂
I wish the doctors/nurses/cancer center would acknowledge and help treat the PTSD we have from doing treatment. They treat everything else … why not our anxiety.
BIG LOVE to you. 🙂