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Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at www.debilynsmith.com

Monday, August 29, 2011

That Second Glass of Spirits

I can claim chemo brain or ADD for forgetting your name or for missing an appointment...BUT I will not tolerate my own ineptitude for getting my facts all messed up when it comes down to my writing. Ask my husband, I am not a "fact magnet." I can't remember what someone told me downtown to tell him when I get home. "I ran into Mary and she said she had run into some friend of yours, can't remember who she said, at some function she was at sometime last week, or was it last month?" Drives him wild!

It must also drive him wild that I am working on a non-fiction book titled "Running From The Cancer Cooties." It's okay when I'm writing fiction to get a little goosey with my details, but not with this and I whole-heartedly agree.

That said, I have tried very hard to get my facts straight in the book. Now in my second editing, I have been going over my "tips" located throughout the book and collecting references to back up what I am saying.
During this process, I have found an inaccuracy I have been spouting to most of my girlfriends about alcohol and your health. I have been saying that after three drinks a week, any alcohol becomes detrimental to a woman's health, when in fact that is only true for breast cancer survivors. Indeed, the rate of recurrance rises drastically to 34% after that point. So now I can honestly say "No, one was enough. Any more could kill me." Dramatic, but true

If you have survived breast cancer, here’s an important article to read at: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/new_research/20091210b.jsp




O.K. and for you non-cancerous survivors, here's something for you to read at:http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410314,00.html  titled: Is Alcohol Actually Good for You? What's Right and Wrong With Drinking
One paragraph states:  What the experts say: Studies clearly show, too, that more than one drink a day makes you more prone to breast cancer. Researchers at the European Cancer Conference recently reported that the risk rises 10% for women who have between one and two drinks a day, compared with women who have less than one, and the risk increases by 30% at more than three drinks per day. And don’t think you lower the risk by drinking wine instead of beer or something harder. The same research says any kind of alcohol ups the risk. Uterine cancer risks go up at two or more drinks a day, as well. What does alcohol have against breasts and uteruses? Experts say it seems to boost estrogen levels, which in some cases cranks up cancer risks.

I stand corrected.
But, it still comes down to playing with a loaded gun, if you ask me. Not many of my friends limit themselves to one a day. Especially once the weekend is here.
Let me ask you this. Do you want to be where I have been? Do you want to suffer with your scars and cut-up body parts? With every look in your mirror? Is over-consuming (meaning 3 drinks a day) every weekend worth what this could do to your family and friends if you are one of the ones that doesn't survive cancer? 
This applies to pre and post-menopausal women. You can run but you can't hide.
I hate to be the heavy here, but a fact is a fact. Please keep this in the front and not the back of your mind the next time you raise that second glass of spirits to your lips. 
And let's all drink to our health! Make mine a double water, heavy on the anxiety-free, please.
 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One Year Mark


It has been one year since receiving  the phone call telling me I was an official breast cancer statistic. I thought you might like to know where exactly that puts me.
I am trying to get back to "normal" but it isn't coming easy. I am starting to think that maybe I never will reach the ease of my prior days in regards to my physical activities. The area on my torso where the lymph nodes were removed still feels sore and a lot like a thick rubber band is attached whenever I try to stretch it. It always feels like I had the workout of a lifetime two days before, leaving me stiff and tender.
The actual surgical scars on my breasts have healed nicely and are fading into the background. They don't trouble me.
The bottom of the right breast that went through the partial mastectomy is a bit deformed looking with dimpled skin.One half of that breast feels as solid as statue marble in contrast to the jiggly, fatty  tissue in the other half. It's not all bad. Now my husband has a choice...soft  or firm.

My right breast has been pulled by sutures to sit slightly higher than the left breast. Not on purpose, it just ended up that way. The nipple aims off to the right, like a mis-aligned headlight which I physically move straight once confined by a bra. It's not a complaint, it's what I look at in the mirror. It could become a complaint if it doesn't let down in the next few years. I'm giving my surgeon the benefit of the doubt that it will eventually relax.

Speaking of, bras still cut into the lymph node incision area, so I prefer to go without one most of the day. I have soft sided sports bras that are far more comfortable for when I want to go out.

The lymph node scar is still a bright pink in color and as said, causes me the most discomfort.But if the nodes hadn't been taken, we would never have known the cancer had made it that far, waiting for the chance to keep going. The thought still keeps me up some nights.

After my brother passed, I fell into a depressed state for two solid weeks. It was hard to find the energy to do anything, to find a reason to keep going through all this. I ate a lot of comfort food, but only if it was something that required virtually no effort on my part. Like instant mashed potatoes with gravy ready in two minutes. Hamburger and onions mixed with a cup of sour cream. Grilled cheese sandwiches with a mountain of ketchup. With the anti-cancer drugs driving my hunger to a new high, it was easy to pack on an extra five pounds I will have to deal with. There's always something unpleasant  to have to deal with it seems.

That's why the recent reunion of my girlfriends was such a welcomed event last week. We had the guitars and harmonica and sing-song going until the wee-est of hours. Buoyed by so much love, one couldn't help but want to be there for them as much as they are here for me. It's not my time to go anywhere yet-I still have work to do. I think I had to go through this so that I can help the next women heading through. How could I have known how to help if I hadn't experienced it? All of it?


My lung capacity is still not where I feel it should be by now. I am 5 months post-treatments. Sandi and I still jog 40 minutes 2-3 times a week, but at the end of the run, if I exert myself, I can't seem to catch a breath and have ended in tears of frustration in the middle of the road struggling to get any air in. The more I try, the more frustrated I got which upset me further, clamping a hand around my airway.Sandi reminds me to exhale as much as I can before trying to inhale. It takes a few seconds to catch up. A few terrifying seconds.
I have been referred to a lung specialist who I will hopefully be seeing this year. You never know with the medical line-ups these days when you have something that is not life-threatening at the moment. There are so many needing immediate care. It's going to get worse with us Baby Boomers aging the way we are.

My hair has come in ten times as thick- like the hair on the butt of a dog, I whine. It has mini poodle curls that I hate, but at least it's there and its warm. I can't take it off in the middle of a hot flash anymore. That part sucks because the flashes still come around ten to twenty times a day. They are more manageable and less frequent if I don't drink, eat meat, sugar or dairy and get some exercise. "Might as well shoot me," my husband says. Good thing he's not on The Plan.

Sandi will continue to inject me with Zoladex once every three months to prevent the production of estrogen in my body. I will be taking Tamoxifin to protect me from estrogen as well.

My biggest issue is morale which I struggle with daily to keep up. The reunion did wonders, but then I got a call that a friend who has been through breast cancer in her left breast, through surgery and radiation, discovered two more lumps in her right breast. She's just started her chemo and is at the "hair tugging" stage. My heart was so saddened to hear and I cannot imagine what she must be feeling. At this stage where you have the belief that they got it all by cutting, poisoning and nuking it and are continuing to battle it with  drugs you start to feel a bit safe. Your trust and faith slowly starts to return. "Maybe I am out of the woods?" You start sneaking back a little more chocolate, a Chai tea latte, okay two, three, whatever, and then the phone rings. Another friend's mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The physio's receptionist, also a friend...more pancreatic cancer.

Needless to say I am back on the strict diet today.

In a nut shell... I'm okay. I'm alive, with hair and two breasts and I am still able to do most of what I did one year ago.But  I also have a new respect for  good health. For being able to do something without hurting. I took it  for granted all of those years.

It's one of life's lessons we have to learn. Take care of your body because you (well, most of us) only get one.

One year. One life. One big bowl of cherries to keep it that way.