Update 38

June 3 – Home finally! I got in Sunday night, unpacked one set of suitcases on Monday, repacked another and left on Tuesday to teach again. Classes were great and I stayed in a fantastic condo right on the Atlantic Ocean! I know, it is a tough job but someone has to do it!

The Phoenix Convention was fantastic! I did hear that some vendors were very slow but in our Magic Metallics booth we sold out of product!!!!!!!!!!!! There were three of us in the booth and we worked our tails off ( well, mine still seems to be there but it felt like I worked it off!) but we were a huge hit! I have also been invited to teach metal techniques to the staff of one of the leaders in our industry in the area of Faux finishing! His company decorates castles in Europe!!!!!!!!!! This may be the most gratifying compliment I have ever been paid artistically. Nice feeling! I was tired at the convention but I did it all and came home and went off and did it again! Physically, I believe I am fine (except I have to go in for an AC1 hemoglobin test next week because my glucose levels are too high – I am afraid of diabetes as it does run in my family) and feel my stamina is very good. If I can just get my mind in order again I will be a very happy person.

I am very sad, too. A very dear friend has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is the first person close to me to be diagnosed after me. My heart felt like it cracked when I read her email. Please give and extra prayer for her – “J”, and, also for “M” whom I have heard is not doing well and for my friend “L” who is really going through some rough times.

To top it all off our darling dog “D.O.G.” who is thirteen has just been diagnosed with epilepsy or a possible brain tumor! She has been with us since she was a puppy and to see her have a seizure was traumatic! She has to take Phenobarbital twice a day for the rest of her life! She takes medication very well so that is not a problem, it was just the look in her eyes when she was having the seizure that was heart wrenching. The medication will keep the seizures at bay, hopefully.

I am going to embrace the following Flavia quote: “Faith in the human spirit brings peace to the heart….this is the place where miracles begin.”

June 4 – I saw the counselor today and decided to write here some of what we spoke about. Not everything, mind you, some things are private even for me! It gets easier to talk about how I feel with each session. I told her that I realized that my feeling of spiraling downward out of control was actually turning inward, like I was trying to get my life inside a nice, neat bubble that just contained my house and garden. My big question today was how do I trust my own mind. After reading over my entries from the first session and all my “truths,” it seems that I do not think those are truths at all! She told me that was actually okay and that I should track my truths for two weeks to see if I see a pattern there. She also told me that most every cancer patient has to deal with the sense of “loss” and that the “loss” can be very different with each person but that every patient has a “loss” with cancer and that you have to comes to terms with that loss. Some of my truth’s today were - that I don’t like feeling I don’t know my own mind, that I like talking to a counselor, that I do feel sorry for myself and that I just might be grieving for what I have had to go through and the “me” I left behind, that I still don’t exactly know what I want to do about future work, that I may never know what I want to do about future work – still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, that I am worried about being diagnosed with diabetes after next Wednesday’s test and if I am how I will feel since it is something I could have controlled. I also realized today what I don’t like about my current hair – I look a great deal like my mother – hard looking and tough. Not exactly the image I want to project. It will be interesting to see if I can write my “truth’s” each day and if I can, what comes of it. My purpose here is to be as honest as I can in this journal and that maybe by admitting I needed to talk to someone about how I feel that maybe someone out there reading these journals will be encouraged to seek help, also. I feel relieved to be able to say to myself that all I went through was totally crappy and that I feel very sorry for myself and that it is okay that I say it out loud and not try to keep it to myself as if I am a weak person for admitting that particular “truth!” I am going to go to at least one support group meeting and see if I “fit” in. The Flavia quote for today is: “The discovery of a kindred soul is one of life’s finest treasures.” Appropriate, don’t you think? I have not done this as yet, I have only spoken to people through my journals and through emails and to people about breast cancer but I have not spoken with a group, face to face, that has gone through all this as recently as I have. It will be ………..interesting. I am used to leading the group (as when I teach or speak) – not being an active participant!

I am also going to see a dietician to see if I can get a handle on the weight loss thing. I have gained a few pounds and that is stressful, as I know, intellectually, that I am eating emotionally but cannot seem to control it. That, by the way, was one of the “classic” symptoms of depression that Dr. M saw when he decided I needed to talk to someone. I know, intellectually, that if I weighed less I could control my high blood pressure, cholesterol and arthritis better and avoid diabetes so what is my problem????????? I need to get away from the fad diets and get on track with a lifetime eating pattern. I truly do not care about being thin – have never been thin in my entire life so do not expect that – just need to get to a healthy weight. I do not want to beat breast cancer to then die of a stroke from high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why is Vain Vanessa not prodding me, also! Where is she when I need her?

I told her my three areas of concern were my professional life, my health and my weight as it affects my health with vanity being secondary. I also am going to think of what I am doing in any given situation as “is this helping or hurting “ me in some way. I like the way that was put to me instead of something being “good or bad.”

Well, aren’t I just Cheerful Cheri this time! Can’t be helped, I must write how I really feel in these journals or they are useless.

On to something a bit more cheerful for real! Lots of hair and still very curly. I colored my hair to Boring Brown Betty on May 15 and I now have roots that are ¼”!!!!!!! Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye if I lie! I will be looking for a new color next week before I have to leave to teach in Maryland on the 17th. No one has written with suggestions for my new “??????? Redheaded Rita” look! I will be happier when I have more hair around my face and on the crown area. But……….I am truly just happy I have hair at all! Harold mentioned today he hasn’t seen the cat fur on my face in a while. He thinks that when that went away the growth must have speeded up on my head!

Well, I have rambled enough for one day. Ah ha! A new persona – Rambling Randi!

I must tell you all that I did warn the counselor that if she read my journals and saw all my various personas to realize that I knew I was really only one person and that I did not suffer from multiple personality disorder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 6 – Slept most of the afternoon yesterday and went to bed late and slept in until 9 a.m. Needed that rest after my whirlwind two weeks. Gardened all day today so am back! My mind seemed quiet today no ups and downs just thinking about gardening and the work I need to accomplish this week. Pretty normal stuff – thank heavens!

Read something last night that may have a profound impact on my future work and lifestyle. A woman CEO wrote about how she spends her valuable time – something no one has enough of – she said you can fill 24 hours a day doing things that other people want you to do and never get everything done so how you choose to spend your time is a really important decision and that someone would always be disappointed that you didn’t do what they wanted that it was okay for that to happen. The counselor actually addressed something like that when she suggested I write down all the things I am supposed to do (things I normally do to make a living) and really assess each one as to its value – both monetary and emotionally. If I really don’t like a particular thing then get rid of it instead of stressing over trying to get it done.

Another coping mechanism we came up with was that when I get a destructive thought or one that I can’t decide is true or not, to treat it as a “hot flash” (that was my idea!) and let it be there but know it would fade away. It may come back but it will leave again. Not quite sure I actually understand how this is beneficial but I will try it.

If I have said this already bear with me while I say it again – I am so very lucky to have a doctor that cares about his patients. Dr. M could have just let me leave his office after telling me he would like me to talk to someone and let it be my responsibility to follow through but instead he made sure I saw someone before I left his office and for that I will be forever grateful to him. I am feeling much more at peace that I have in a long while. I really did feel fine and thought I was just having some problems getting my hormones back in order so am glad he was on the lookout for signs of depression and anxiety. Have not had any of those dreadful “nostril flaring” episodes since! Still a bit weepy on occasion but knowing it is “normal” for me to be feeling that way and grieving for all that has happened and admitting to myself that I feel sorry for myself and that it is okay to feel that way – not all the time, mind you, but the thoughts do creep in now and again. Maybe that is the “hot flash” therapy my counselor was talking about!

I would certainly encourage anyone who is not feeling “quite themselves” for any reason to seek help. I never would have done it on my own so please let my experience show you that it is okay for someone to help you through the hard times and is not a sign of weakness or that you are not a strong person to need some help.

June 8 – Well, I am angry. Not sure just at what, but I am angry! I went to my first support group tonight and am not sure just how I feel about it. They said they hoped it had helped and I told them I didn’t know, that I would have to think about it. Someone else spoke up and agreed. They had a speaker that is an eleven year survivor and she was very nice, but………….. she said a couple of things that really got under my skin. The main one was that we would have to summon up courage to get through these times of rebuilding our lives after cancer. On the surface that is a nice statement but what the %$#@$% does she think got us all this far? I didn’t like the inference that up until now none of us had shown courage!!!!!!!!! I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way, but that is how it came across. The other was that we would all have to have a mourning period for our lost breasts and do the proper grieving. Up went the hand again! I said in no uncertain terms that I would never mourn the loss of my breasts as - number one, one of them was trying to kill me, number two, my personality and worth as a woman is certainly not based on my breasts of lack of, number three, I got better ones anyway – with warranty cards no less! I am grieving for many things though, like loss of innocence meaning that no longer is “life” the sure thing it felt like “before.” The loss of control of a lot of things (and I do like control!), the loss of some of my independence (independence is very important to me), the fact that I will always be a cancer patient, those are a few of the things I expect this grieving period is for, but certainly not for lost body parts. Years ago I had an accident that almost cost me the use of my little finger on my right hand. I am a right-handed artist and I can tell you I would have had major grieving over that as it would directly affect my ongoing quality of life and profession – boobs? – not even in the same category. The group leader used the word “unique” quite a few times when referring to our positions as a category of people who are recovering from the whole cancer thing and one lady said to him that she disliked the word “unique” being used to describe us as a group because to her that word implied something special and she certainly did not feel special! I said there way to many of us in the world who have it or are recovering form it to be termed unique. He was very good and did not take offense just guided our talking. At the end he said he was glad we were angry as that is a very positive response to what has happened to us. I told him I didn’t quite know what I was angry at specifically and he said “Guess what the first stage of grieving is? Anger.” Well, I was taken aback to say the least! I’m sure I knew that somewhere in my mind but had never thought of it. There was also another woman from another hospital there observing and we spoke afterwards and guess what – she had read the journals! That was a nice feeling. Even with my outbursts the group leader asked if he might call on me sometime to speak to a group. Of course, I said yes, as all this is very important to me.

About the anger – I feel that some of it is external. I am so angry that so many women (and men, too) have breast cancer or have had or will get it. I am angry that I had to go through all that. I am angry that cancer in any form exists. I am angry when I hear that someone is newly diagnosed. I am angry that I feel so muddled in my thinking. I am angry that I have to go into buildings that say Cancer Institutes or Cancer Centers. I am angry that I need to talk to someone about my problems because that goes along with being angry that I didn’t and don’t have control over my destiny because of this crappy disease. I am angry that I feel this anger!!!!!!!!! Angry Angela has just reared her ugly head! Hopefully, she will not stay too long. She is not such hot company! The good thing about this whole paragraph is that it is all a normal reaction to what has happened to me and it was good to hear that but at the same time I don’t want this to be normal for me.

Something that was very nice happened though, I was talking to the group leader afterwards and he asked if that was my “chemo hair” and I said that it was and he said, “It is gorgeous!” Compliments will get you everywhere with me so this guy is now a friend for life! Of course, he is used to seeing a lot of bald women! An observation here, I did not like being in a room with three out of four of the women with chemo hair, me being one of them. I don’t care how “cute” it looks or how easy it is to care for (someone else’s statement in the room, not mine as my ‘chemo hair” requires vast quantities of Mega Gel to behave!) it is still chemo hair and I don’t want it. Who knows this may become a new trend and women will go to the hairdresser and ask for the Chemo Cut! To me they would all look like they just finished treatment for cancer! I just got the ruler out and measured it and it is 1 ¾”- 2 ½” inches long now! I measured in different places and apparantly it is not growing in evenly. Picture that will you, me with the ruler sticking out of my head as I measured my hair! It is nice and curly (do love that part I can tell you!) so looks shorter. I can actually make a baby ponytail at the back! I probably should consider trimming it but I just can’t cut any of it off just yet now that I finally have some hair! The guest speaker mentioned also that the hardest part of her whole experience was losing her hair. It is amazing since that is the only thing that didn’t have physical pain – just a huge amount of emotional pain, which sometimes can be worse than physically hurting.

June 9 – Lucky me – not only was Angry Angela in residence last night but then Weepy Wanda came to visit, too! After a while I told her to get a grip and she left in a huff!

Harold and I have a “date” this morning to go have blood work done at the doctor’s office. Oh yea! His is for cholesterol and mine is because of the high glucose count from the last bloodwork. I have been a very good girl this past week about avoiding sugar or an excess of starches that turn to sugar but I believe the test tracks about three months and my one week will probably not make a big difference. Put the fear into me though!

June 12 – A lot of days between my last posting. Good news is that I am right on the line for the sugar test. Six is max and there I am! So I am not critical yet but very high and if I can control my diet I should be okay for diabetes at least for now. The doctor was very pleased that I have an appointment with a nutritionist this Thursday. Do NOT want to have to deal with that problem for the rest of my life, I have enough to worry about thank you very much! I have already begun a new, healthier approach and have lost a couple of pounds so that is a nice feeling. Not looking for thin, I have never been thin in my entire life so why would I expect that miracle to happen now? Just want to get to a healthy weight for all my various ailments. Also, this is a good time to throw this fact in – I read in Prevention magazine that overweight women who lost 20 or more pounds cut breast cancer risk by 21% - not the first time I have read that or the first time I have posted that info either. Just a gentle reminder!

I saw my counselor on Thursday, very good talk and I am beginning to feel not quite so muddled although my poor brain is still swirling around causing me a bit of distress. No “nose flaring episodes” since I started talking to someone though! Depression hanging around but not severe and since the anxiety has tamed down I don’t feel as jittery. Very good things, indeed.

I have been very long winded this time, I never expected when I began this journey that at this point I would have anything much to write about. I have learned that it is only recently that special emphasis has been placed on post treatment issues. I figured it was all uphill after surgeries and chemo were done. All this emotional stuff has been quite unexpected and depressing (probably why I have mild depression – what do you think?).

More good news, my newly diagnosed friend has had all her body scans and the only place where there is cancer is in her left breast, which is the original location, and she only needs a lumpectomy and radiation they believe. It is still very serious and she has a long journey ahead of her but that is all very good news to a person after they hear the dreaded diagnosis. Caring thoughts and prayers work wonders on the heart and soul.

Okay, photo of the week is – patio again but a different view, off to the left looking out the kitchen door. I will have to come up with some new photos, as this is the last in the garden series, at least in the back. This was taken in the Spring, so I will have to see if anything has changed significantly out there. I have been planting and really digging in the dirt and loving every minute of it so I must have made progress! I really must take a new photo when I have my “red” hair, too! Click on the picture for a larger view.

Life is good!

Until next time,

Margot a.k.a. (still Perky Polly, of course) Vain Vanessa, Cheerful Cheri, Boring Brown Betty, Rambling Randi, Angry Angela and lastly ole’ Weepy Wanda (she is quite the hanger-on, isn’t she, be glad when she gets bored and goes home)

After reading through the updates,
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