"The Other Side"
Six months have passed since my last post. I am not exactly sure why; other than that I am slowly drifting to "the other side".......... the post-cancer side. It feels almost like a dream (nightmare really) that I had cancer at all. Sometimes I am not even 100% sure that I went through everything that I did. But............... then............. the reminders show up: the scars I see right before I get into the shower, the smell of the oncology wing when I go in for check-ups, the news that a friend or a friend of a friend has been newly diagnosed, casually walking by a bald mom at a cheer competition/on vacation/in the grocery store and knowing EXACTLY how she must feel. I know I will never really forget about my cancer journey, but it does begin to blur a bit.
Medically speaking, I am onto the step of permanent reconstruction. On January 23rd, I had out-patient surgery to have my expanders removed and my implants put in! Hallelujah! The radiation on my right side makes that implant feel almost as stiff as an expander. Dr. K, my radiation oncologist, said it may loosen up a bit with some oils and stretching, but it is still very, very tight and uncomfortable. I take the medicine Arimidex daily. The major side effect is bone weakening, so I also take VItamin D and Calcium pills. Tamoxifin, which many breast cancer patients receive as the medicine of choice after a diagnosis, made me feel so sick with flu-like symptoms. Plus, Armidex is for post menopausal women (which is me-YAY!) so that's why Dr. C made the decision to go with Arimidex. Thanks to my friend, Jen S, I also take a dietary supplement called Cura Med. It is basically a mixture of turmeric and curcumin that is up to 500 times stronger than turmeric alone. It is supposed to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. (Sounds great to me.)I have had a few scares along the way. I felt a lump in my breast that turned out to be scar tissue. I also felt a pretty large lump in the lymph node in my neck. After an ultrasound, it was determined that I just had a normal swollen lymph node that went down on its own. I had some pretty sharp pains in my back and thighs so I had a bone scan which showed no cancer in any of my bones. That's the thing about living on "the other side." Every pain, lump, bump, or bruise IMMEDIATELY makes me wonder if the cancer has come back. I went in for more extensive genetic testing, just to find out that I do not carry a single genetic gene that makes me more susceptible to getting cancer. (Weird, right???)
"The other side" makes me feel very supportive and defensive for myself and my fellow cancer warriors. You all know how much I love reality tv! Well, after watching the season finale of "Manzo-ed With Children" (which is a show I LOVE by the way), I felt very upset. The Manzos were part of the original "Housewives of New Jersey" but they were so much fun to watch, that they now have their own show on BRAVO. Well, the last few epsiodes included Caroline, the mom, finding a lump in her breast and taking the proper steps to find out what was going on in her body, which I applaud. By the end of the season it was determined to not be cancer (THANK GOD)! However, many comments Caroline made throughout the episodes were very offensive to anyone who did indeed have to go through the cancer journey. I even sent a letter to her through Bravo. I am sure thatshe never saw it, but I will include it here for your reading pleasure:-).
Hi! I am a HUGE fan of your show, you and your family! We are similar in a few ways. I am also a real housewife of (South) Jersey. I also have 3 children close in age (2 girls and 1 boy). I also found a lump in my breast, panicked and went to the doctor for a mammogram & ultrasound. But that is where our similarities end. On air, while you talked about the scary idea of being diagnosed with breast cancer, I lived that actual diagnosis one year ago. While I appreciate your raw emotion in dealing with a possible diagnosis (& then later finding out it was just an infection), some of your comments upset me, a NJ Housewife of 3 children who was officially diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. You said, "I don't have time for this" and "I want to be around for my kids" while showing pictures of your kids apple picking when they were younger. I had no choice but to live my life and make time for a diagnosis at the age of 41. Our kids were 8, 10 and 13. I had to go apple-picking bald and bone-tired from the 5 months of chemo I endured after a radical bilateral mastectomy. I had to sit on the Jersey Shore Beach of LBI wrapped in camisoles and covered with a huge hat just to watch my young kids jump the waves because I had horrible burns from my 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments. I had to bake a birthday cake for my now 14 year old a few weeks early because I had to have a full hysterectomy to lessen my chances of a recurrence, so please forgive me for staring at the TV in disbelief as you stated, "this may be the last birthday cake I make for my 30 year old." You have every right to be petrified by finding a lump in your breast, but let me promise you that the reality of hearing the words, "you have breast cancer," at the age of 41, is truly petrifying!
Sincerely, Kristin Hurley
So, as you can see, living on "the other side" sometimes makes me a little crazy, but I am thoroughly enjoying the view from this side.