Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good news from followup tests, and some songs


I've been getting some questions about how the CT scan turned out (well), as well as other things, so thought I would intrude on all of you with a follow-up message and a gift.

Overall, life has returned to a new normal. I really appreciate your interest and concern and thoughts. The post-chemo part of the story might sound familiar, especially if you have been down this road yourself or accompanied someone else, maybe not with cancer, but with another medical issue. Even though the medical tests aren't fun, they are a sign that I've moved from the weird world of chemo to experiencing things that are familiar to others. That feels good, as if I am re-entering the real world.

Thank you for your support during the process, and, now, for helping us return to "normal" lives. A few weeks after my last chemo, I had all my tests. They include
- a CT of chest, abs and pelvis. This was the main test where they look for any sign of cancer. And, whew, this was clear. So far, so good.
- a bone density test, because all these drugs can do a number on your bone density. Think, osteoporosis. But, no alarms there.
- genetic testing (found nothing of note)
- baseline blood tests, so that they know what is "normal" for me and can monitor when anything goes up or down
- pelvic ultrasound, because breast-colon-ovarian cancers sometimes go together and I was worried about ovarian next. I'm still working on figuring this one out, because there currently are no good tests for catching ovarian early. But at least nothing showed on the ultrasound so there is no urgency
- and, finally, getting my port removed. This, for me, marked the end of my chemo. When I had it put in, last December, that felt like the true beginning of chemo and I cried through the entire procedure. For the removal, I got the same team, and they remembered me. Oh well. It was a better experience this time. I even got a fancy johnny as a gift from a friend, and wearing that into the procedure felt like I was wrapped in a big hug.

The main two lingering effects that I've noticed are neuropathy and chemo brain. The neuropathy is in my fingers and toes. It primarily makes me prone to dropping things - of course, always at awkward times - and makes it more difficult to do anything that requires fine motor skills, like buttoning buttons or picking up something small. Still, not a major complaint. And, the chemo brain is probably poetic justice, as I have always been really impatient with slow thinkers and forgetful people. So, now I get to live a bit in those shoes!

Oh, and at the risk of oversharing, I did sail into menopause, which is a trip unto itself.

The biggest annoyance is that I find that I am still a bit shell-shocked. A piece of me worries that bad news is lurking around some dark corner, but nonetheless, I'm happy to be getting my energy back, and I'm feeling great. It is wild to get through a day without needing a nap. I actually made pickles the other day and was happily surprised to realize that I still had energy to do other things!

I'm continuing with acupuncture and yoga. I'm starting to look more closely at nutrition. I figure, I can't control much, but if what I eat makes a difference, I'll give it a go. If you thought I was a picky eater before, than hang on for my new level of pickiness! As for activities, I'm trying to make decisions to do things that give me energy, not just what I think I should do. Like everyone, sometimes I'm good at this, and sometimes not.

Oh, I'll share one little tip, in case it is ever useful for you to pass along. When I finished chemo, the boys still had fears about my disappearing, getting sick, etc. Julie suggested and helped my (now) five-year-old throw an "end of chemo" dinner party for us (just the four of us, Julie and her husband). Julie took my son out to buy balloons for the dinner. He took all $4.00 from his savings bank and, after much deliberation about what would be the best present, bought a tiara for me. It was a great time, and it really helped the boys to move forward and be kids again.

So, life goes on. I continue to be so appreciative to all of you for carrying us through all this. As a token of my appreciation, I'd like to share these songs with you.

An amazing local singer and songwriter, Anna Huckabee Tull, wrote these songs and is the singer and one of the musicians on the recordings. Collaborating with her to write the songs was an amazing process. She interviewed me, and I rambled on. There was so much in the experience of having cancer and chemo -- so much crap, so much good, so many messages to take away and changes to me and my life. I couldn't sort through it all in my head. After we talked, it felt like I was handing everything over to her -- all my experiences and fears and feelings -- and trusting to her take care of all of them. I walked away from those conversations feeling lighter and hopeful of the future, whatever it may bring. That was great.

Later, when I heard the songs, it felt like she somehow sorted through all the jumble and made some sense out of all my confusion. I am thrilled with what she created.

These songs are really personal to me, but because you've shared so much with me, I want to share them with you, too. Besides, I shared all the other nutty songs that we running through my head during the past year!

This first song is "From the Inside." It reflects what it felt like going through chemo. It is long and slow and sometimes lonely. However, there is also a fullness to it, and a sense of support and hope running through it. There are overlapping voices in it, just like all the different voices and feelings that were simultaneously going on inside my head. And by the end, it is strong. Though I can't speak to Anna's experience in writing this, she noted that this one was a relatively long, drawn out process and took quite a bit of work as it unfolded.

Here is the link to "From the Inside":


The second song is called "The Days of your Opening." It is more upbeat and comparatively fast-moving.To me, it reflects the positive elements that came from going through chemo and the potential of the days to come. Again, I can't speak to Anna's experience in writing this, but she mentioned that, after writing the first song, this one just popped out. Sort of like, you have to go through the "work" to get to the sunshine on the other side (my words, not hers). I guess like life.

Here is the link to "The Days of Your Opening":


If you like her work, Anna's website is:
and you can sign up to receive her Song of the Month.

The lyrics to these songs are on her website, too. (I couldn't figure out how to attach them here.)

So, that is about it. As life moves ahead, I look forward to sharing good times together! In the meantime, I wish you loads of love and laughter in your life, every day.

Much love,

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