Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 813: Don't Think Twice, it's All Right

So I think I'm going to be OK.

How is that for an understated, casual opening line?

I mean, I don't have a heart condition. And, I don't think I have lung mets.

Can I get an AMEN?

Those issues I was having literally scared the shit out of me. It was not in my mind, and now I think I have an inkling of an understanding of what was really happening--but I'll get to that later. When my blood pressure shot up to 143/80, I was convinced my heart was having trouble. And no, it's not because I'm a hypochondriac. It's because I had radiation over my heart AFTER taking this heart-terrorizing medication affectionately known as either the Red Devil or the Red Death, because while it looks like cherry Koolaid in that syringe, when they push adriamicin into your body, you literally feel the coldness of something approaching death course through your veins, and the nurse looks at you to make sure you're still breathing, and then they do that shit to you again and again. So, you know, I wasn't nuts for worrying.

But when I saw that blood pressure reading, I said, screw this. If they want to put me on those damn beta blockers again I'm not doing it. I hated those. So I made a bunch of changes to my already healthy lifestyle. I love coffee, but I don't drink very much. At home I make it half-decaf and I pour it out as soon as it gets lukewarm. A few days a week I was going to starbucks for iced coffee, no sugar or milk, and since that's mostly ice, it didn't seem like a big deal. I was having one drink every night to help me relax. While we were up north, I was making "up north dinner," or crockpot dinners that could last us three nights and not necessitate going to the grocery store, which was really far away. Things like vegetarian chili made with canned beans. Chicken-rice stew/soup made with those packaged rice things. Homemade pizza. I don't eat a lot, but I do eat like a real person. I'm no "salad's enough for me" girl.

This crap was terrifying me so I just stopped. Cut out caffeine, stopped drinking, started looking closely at sodium content and getting annoyed at how much sodium there is in everything. Even if you give up bread, it's bad. How do low carb folks do it? Dairy products are the WORST with sodium. For a while I was overdoing it and basically eating fruit for dinner, spinach salad for lunch at work. I continued my same workout routine. I was HUNGRY.

And I felt better. I scheduled an acupuncture appointment for the first time in a year and a half, and that made me feel even better. My last memories of acupuncture are positive, but I was never truly comfortable when I was doing it. The first time, I was just suffering terribly from chemo. Even when I was done with treatment, I was in menopause, having hot flashes while lying on the table with needles sticking up out of my translucent newly-grown hair. My scar tissue pain made it difficult to lie comfortably. I always stayed for the minimum 25 minutes and got out of there. She expected me to do the same this time. When she came to get me, I sent her away. I am lying here with nothing to do and nothing to think about and I'M NOT LEAVING! She laughed at me, gave me as long as I wanted. I am naturally restless, so I made it about 45 minutes--a record.

I went in for the heart tests on Monday. It was 100 degrees and due to the scheduling, I needed to take the whole day off of work for the appointments, so I drove down to the hospital. The ecchocardiogram was painless, and relatively interesting. I had one done when I was admitted to the hospital for heart problems due to Taxol but that whole weekend was so difficult I don't remember much of what the tests were like--even though I will never forget the kindness of that one doctor. An eccho is basically an ultrasound of your heart. The technician showed me everything--this is your pulmonary artery, that sound you are hearing is the blood pumping, those colors mark different arteries. It looked and sounded just like those early ultrasounds you see of your fetus in the womb. I asked if she could give me results, and she said: "I can only tell you if something life threatening shows up, that would make me concerned you were about to have heart failure. Barring that, the physician needs to read it."

She sent me on my way. I went to get the Holter monitor. That was fast--leads and wires taped all over my torso after she literally used pumice on my skin to rub it raw and make sure they would stick. I had this bulging monitor on, tape up to my chin, and I was wearing short shorts and a tanktop. Oh well, that's one of the benefits of living in a place like Chicago. You walk around the Mag Mile like that, going shopping, and the androgynous employees at Zara just look at you with utter boredom in their eyes, and people texting on their phones almost run you down because they are paying so little attention to anything outside of themselves, and no one gives a shit, because there are much stranger things happening.

And then, I waited.

Tuesday evening I got an email message from my general physician. Your Eccho is normal.

Late in the afternoon yesterday, prompted by my email asking her for results, I got another message: Your Holter results were normal, even during the one indicated time when you felt your heart racing.

I had been given a diary, wherein I was supposed to write my symptoms if I experienced them. Shortly after eating an Mburger for lunch around 1 pm, as I was STARVING, my heart started racing. I recorded it. I drove home, laid down, read a book about typhus destroying Napoleon's grand army in 1812 because that's the kind of thing that puts my issues into the grander perspective, and it was still racing.

Salt from the burger. Dehydration. My heart is fine--but there is something odd going on, and I think I now know what it is. I was thinking about this on Tuesday, when I finally got to take the tape and leads off around noon. I locked the door to my office, and thought I could just casually remove them. Wrong. It was like the smooth-chested female version of the 40 year old virgin up in here. Taking that shit off HURT. I still have red marks from it. I told Gabe he'd better keep his heart healthy so he never needs to have one of those monitors put on his hairy chest.


Water retention. In the eccho room, they took my blood pressure. Twice. It was 105/60. I was more nervous on Monday by a large margin than I was when my BP read high, so don't tell me that high reading was stress-related. I was also newly addicted to drinking water. For the 10 days or so that I've been on this experiment, my weight has not fluctuated much. I weighed 116.5 this morning. At night, I usually weigh about 118. When I was having the heart and breathing issues, I would sometimes weigh as much as 121 and I would complain about how fat I felt, how bloated I was. We make light of these issues as a society, even our husbands roll their eyes at us. We fail to recognize that what presents as vanity might actually be a real, honest to God PROBLEM. And like so many things, we trivialize it, sweep it under the rug, focus on the wrong thing--the "fat" days, when there's water pressing on your heart and lungs, the tits, when there's cancer trying to kill you. Well, no more. Some of us breast cancer ladies are getting testy enough to make our OWN shirts. Save second base? Really?

Water retention. In an extreme form. Water retention so bad, it put pressure on my heart and made it hard to breathe. Water retention that was worse at certain points in my cycle, but never absent. Yes, I realize that I'm self-diagnosing. But until I keel over, I'm going to make the unheard of assumption that I understand my body, perhaps better than anyone else. And my body has changed. The thing is, when your body changes drastically AFTER having some minor issues like CANCER, it can be hard to correctly place the problem and not sit around thinking about what your kids will look like when they're grown up and you're dead. Just saying.

Yesterday, I got myself an iced coffee for the first time in almost 2 weeks because it was so damn hot even at 5:30 in the morning while I was taking my walk. I drank two thirds of it but it took me a few hours. I got up from my desk to go to the bathroom, and I had one of these surreal post-cancer moments. I sat there--me, of the iron bladder, the woman who used to be able, even AFTER having kids, to go 7 hours without using the bathroom--for what must have been three full minutes, peeing. I mean seriously. Folks who came in after me were leaving and I was still taking a piss. My body was telling me, look lady, you're retaining too much of this shit. There's one more vice you just can't have.

Goddamn chemo-induced menopause leading me into a second puberty bullshit.

I got my first period at age 11. I went on the pill at age 18 and went off at age 29. I had my first child at 30 and my second at 33. I never, at any stage, had PMS symptoms. Heavy bleeding, vomiting, yeah I had that. But bloating? Depression? NEVER. And now I have days of the month where I get so down I literally feel almost worthless. I think, I am going to lose my job because I'm no good at it. My kids hate me. I don't have any friends. WHOA! KatydidNOT ever feel that way before these hormones blew up. Never.

Until now.

If I was 20, I wouldn't think about it. At my age, it's hard to believe my hormones could take me for this kind of ride. But there it is. I've been feeling like a rockstar at spinning, still a little out of breath, but better. And it's been 9 million degrees in Chicago and the air quality is horrible so that's not a huge shock. But here's the thing.

If you have lung mets, your symptoms don't get better. They might start out mild or barely noticeable and stay that way, but they don't get BETTER.

So screw that chest x-ray man. Just give me 47 bottles of water and I'm good.

Not just good but GREAT. I feel skinnier, more like myself. I won't throw out the order, but come September, I just don't think I'm doing the chest xray. Now, some of you will think I should get the xray anyway. Other survivors have said, now if it was ME and I had a chest xray order I couldn't get there fast enough! But you know what? I've had more radiation than any human being should ever have in her life and I don't need any more just in case radiation, any more my God I'm going out of my mind until I get those results, tests. I mean, I feel pretty damn good.

Last night it was 103 degrees and extremely humid at 6 pm. So of course, while the kids were at gymnastics, I went spinning. And I felt awesome. I drank two bottles of water in 45 minutes. I had to pee the second I got off the bike. BUT. The last song, during the stretch, was Purple Rain. And there I was AGAIN, tearing up in the gym, this time with happiness, passing it off as sweat as I realized that my heart is ok, my lungs are probably ok, there's something going on in my chest that might necessitate an xray, since it hurts so much, is so tender that if Gabe tries to touch that breast tears sometimes come to my eyes and if I push on the left side of my sternum I wince, but THAT IS NOT CANCER. Ruined pec or cracked bones from radiation, maybe.

But it's not cancer. Cancer doesn't present like that.

So there I was, flying on the bike in the sweaty gym, wearing a bright blue bandana on my head that I bought at the wig shop when I had my head shaved two years ago. Suddenly I had this image of myself when I was 25, wearing this mod dress, showing up at night at class in graudate school after I got off of a full day's work. Another student told me I reminded him of Mary Tyler Moore. I thanked him, though that hadn't been my goal.

Maybe it should have been. I lived in Minnesota for years. And you know what?

I think I'm gonna make it after all.


  1. *standing o*

    Best ending ever. (have you ever looked at my "about" page? Kindred spirits.)

  2. Tay, I am so glad you are feeling better (meaning, yes, it's probably not lung mets). It doesn't come across the internet properly, but I am using my super-serious/not f-ing around voice when I say, "I am so glad you are feeling better."

    And I love your shirt, using silly happy voice.

  3. Yay for no heart disease!! Now we can really party hard at your birthday. If you can't drink as much, don't worry: I'll drink for you.

  4. Okay - so cancer doesn't present that way. I am SO glad it's not cancer - but please, be vigilant. Some of us have only just found you - and none of us want to lose you.