So I was back to the oncologist for my 4 month check-up. My labs were good and there is still no evidence of disease (NED), which I am so thankful for. I’ve seen many women using the term “cancer-free” instead of NED. This is a misnomer. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – once you are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer there is no such thing as “cancer-free.” Cancer-free suggests the cancer is gone, disappeared, never to return again, but once breast cancer becomes invasive (the cancer cells spread outside the milk duct or lobules and into the normal tissue inside the breast), all bets are off. Even with clear surgical margins and adjuvant therapies such as chemo, radiation and/or hormone blockers, those little buggers can hide anywhere for any length of time. If like me you’ve had lymph nodes test positive then that’s another strike against you. There is a lot of talk about recurrence and factors that go into projecting when breast cancer may return. One common thread I have come across in my research is that making it to the ten year mark is a good sign of long term survival. I just passed the two and a half year mark since my initial diagnosis and while I want to get to the ten year mark as quickly as possible, I also don’t want to wish my life away. I try not to dwell on the negative and what “might” happen, but I do feel compelled to educate as often as possible. “Awareness” is not just knowing we need our mammograms, we need to understand the devil we are up against.
Now stepping down from my soap box, I am also very sad to report that I am losing my oncologist. I received a notification from my insurance company that my premium will likely increase by up to $200, so I’m looking at about $700 per month next year, just for me. And as if that isn’t bad enough, Dignity Health and its physicians will no longer be a part of my network in 2018. My oncologist is part of Dignity Health. I filled out a form that purports to petition the insurance company for continuing coverage from a doctor that a patient saw for life-saving treatment but is now out of network, but I am told all of these applications have been thus far, denied. My oncologist is like a father figure to me. He made me feel like everything will be okay. He saw me through one of the lowest parts of my life. For two and a half years, he has been my knight in shining armer. He “gets it.” For a cancer survivor, having this doctor ripped away is both frightening and heartbreaking, like losing a sense of security. But, there is not really anything that can be done about it. I could continue to see him and pay out of pocket and he would probably give me a contracted provider price, but nothing would go toward my deductible. And God forbid what if I have a recurrence? I cannot afford out of network treatment. So, I will suck it up, put on my big girl pants and hopefully find another oncologist that is as wonderful as he is.
We just celebrated Thanksgiving so I want to mention how thankful I am to God for putting me on this path, no matter how dark it seems at times, He has lifted me up and given me perseverance and strength to face whatever lies ahead. I am thankful for my family and friends who stuck by me during these last couple of very challenging years and all the new friends I have made along the way. Something new I’m thankful for is our dog Amber who is a rescue we adopted in August. She is a one year old Australian Shepherd mix. It had been about a year and a half since our sweet dog Sammy crossed the rainbow bridge and it was time to give all of our love to another soul in need.
So I was back to The Boob Whisperer about a month ago to finally get the little dog ear extra skin removed and it looks SO much better. I am ecstatic. Are they perfect? No. But I knew they never would be. As I’ve said before, breast reconstruction is generally a salvage job, not a boob job, and they were always destined to be sisters, not twins. After this latest surgery I feel like I am one step forward and three steps back in my range of motion, and now I think it’s starting to affect my shoulder and back on that side. I need to start stretching and exercising ASAP before I am crippled. Between this problem and the cancer medication most days I feel like a 90 year old. I know that moving more will help alleviate this issue but it’s hard to get started when you feel like the Tin Man before Dorothy entered into his life. I know, I know, excuses are like assholes, everybody’s got one.
I’m also really great at excusing my lackadaisical attitude towards losing weight. I did lose like 35-40 pounds in 2015 during treatment, but I still have about 50 to go. I keep telling myself I’m going to do it but I never do. The difference now is I’ve almost given myself permission to stay this size (16-18) because hey, look at all I’ve had to endure? I deserve to eat what I want and be fat and happy. And one thing is for sure, I’ve never in my life been happy overweight but now I can honestly say it doesn’t bother me much. Just like so many other things in life that seemed like a huge deal before I was diagnosed with cancer, losing weight seems pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You see, I’ve really succeeded in simplifying and prioritizing my life and that includes fretting about my size and appearance. But-being a healthy weight is important. Being overweight is a risk factor for breast cancer and the smart thing for me to do is lose the weight and reduce my risk. I’ve taken other positive steps, like quitting alcohol and transferring to a less stressful position at work, but it’s not enough. I need to get to a healthy weight and maintain it. I will never be the nutrition police like those proclaiming – No meat! No soy! No sugar! No white flour! Seriously though, fuck off. Life is way too short.
Weight loss is not simple for anyone but for me it particularly comes with huge amounts of baggage. I’ve been every size from a zero to 24. It started in high school when I used dieting to deal with my emotional issues and became anorexic. It happened in my early 20’s when I ballooned up to a size 24. It happened in my late twenties when I became anorexic again. When I got pregnant at 36 and gained 53 pounds it was because “I’m eating for two you know.” Yeah, two lumberjacks. For every time there were pounds lost, there were an equal number or more of pounds gained. I have so much loose skin from yo-yo dieting it is so not attractive. And each time I lose the weight I say “this is the last time.” At 51, it has yet to be “the last time.” At least I haven’t gained any of the weight back in the last two and a half years since chemotherapy so I guess that’s progress.
The thing is, I am at a place in my life where being overweight isn’t ideal, but truly it doesn’t cast a shadow over my happiness like it once did. I am thankful to be alive and I don’t give two shits what anyone else thinks about my size. It’s a wonderful feeling to finally love myself in all my extra pounds, scarred foobs glory so I’ve kind of been basking in this new self-acceptance. But if I truly love myself, I will give my body the care and nutrition it needs, so I am going to really try this time. I feel ready. Wish me luck.