Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ah....those aches and pains!

People who have made it through chemotherapy often (usually?) find themselves in the next stage, the "OH MY GOODNESS! Is this a normal ache or pain or is it CANCER!!!!!!!????"  I admit, I'm there...especially since my markers doubled last month.  My new ache in my it....or isn't it????

What makes this even more difficult to discern (in addition to my getting older, I mean goodness, I started this journey at 34!), is that while on chemotherapy, the chemo suppresses your immune system.   Arthritis is one of your body's immune responses.  Basically, when your body sees something inflamed or problematic and it can't get rid of it, it walls it off with calcium (remember those micro-calcifications they look for in mammograms? arthritis, simplified, is your body laying down calcium around joints.

When you are on chemo, your body doesn't feel those aches and pains so much because the chemo doesn't allow it do.  Think about it, one of the treatments for rheumatoid arthritis is to use a lesser (meaning not as much as you are given for cancer) amount of methotrexate, a chemo drug.  So, it makes sense that we wouldn't feel or notice as much, then whammo!  When we're off it, those of us who are of a certain age get lovely aches and pains.

This isn't to say that it is ALL arthritis, or bursitis, or changes in the weather...we ARE at risk for mets, but try to keep calm, think of the other possibilities, and then talk to your oncologist about it.  You need to be vigilant, but not paranoid....yeah...that's hard....but necessary. Good luck!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blogging for Health?

A while ago, I was asked to fill out a survey for someone who was studying people who blog about cancer...and about health.  I dutifully filled it out and said WHY I was fact I went into a great deal of detail.

You know the drill..I've said it before.  I started blogging about being a Stage IV survivor because I didn't know of any other Stage IV survivors who have been alive as long as I had.  In fact, I knew very few stage IV survivors at all.  When I was first diagnosed....there weren't any.  That should tell you something.

I wanted to give people hope and share some of my experiences in hopes that it might be helpful.  I also wanted to put it "out there" so that people who didn't have cancer might be able to understand a little more about the road that the cancer patient travels....all cancer patients have some similarities, even though the particulars and many of the experiences may be different.

In addition, some pretty bizarre stuff happens to me and I tend to understand the physical process and medical procedures.  I mean really, who else do you know (other than Vivien's daughter) who have had a suture pop to the surface years after being put in? Or had a biopsy needle broken off her her pelvis????

So, my main goal is to help.  Ok..yeah, I know, sometimes I bellyache about what's going on.  Hey, I'm human and that's normal.  In addition, I know several people who follow this blog who don't have cancer or who just know me.  So it's there.

I was completely blown away in his summary of the analysis of the blogs...the only thing he looked at was how it made the blogger this researcher's opinion all cancer blogs were merely documenting the process that particular patient was going through...and that it was a way of that patient connecting and garnering support.  There was no mention made anywhere about anyone doing it to give hope, information and maybe in some way be helpful.

So am I nuts? What do you think? Are you getting anything out of this?   Hopefully, it is doing something other than making my fingers slender and maybe helping my neuropathy in my hands. ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shaking your Fist at the Heavens

Recently, upon hearing some bad news about tumor markers from me, a friend said that I must be shaking my fist at the heavens.  Hmm. No. And I can't think of when I' ve ever shaken my fist at the heavens.  It wouldn't do any good, and it would have the ability to give me a sore arm.  Plus, there are better things to do with your hands.

You can shake your fists at skyward if it makes you feel better.  Just don't spend a lot of time and energy doing it...a little bit is OK...too much just makes you bitter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


These pokeberries are looking a little tired, aren't they?  This last weekend, I ran into an old friend of my sister's who did the dance with cancer some time ago.   She moaned that she felt tired and couldn't get her stamina back.

This is a common refrain among cancer survivors, and very common for breast cancer survivors.  One of my friends from the Noble Circle group had breast cancer in 1998 with recurrences soon thereafter.  She still complains of being exhausted and having to take naps.

The sad thing is that just as common as the complaint of extreme fatigue is the reaction of the doctors that "it's all in your head."  I'm pleased that the study I took part in two weeks ago is actually trying to study some of the post treatment effects and is listening to survivors and comparing to women who have never had cancer.

Several things come into play here, I think.   Now mind you, I'm not a doctor, nor do I have medical training, but I have been observing this for a while and I do know about quite a few of the side effects.  I know that currently my problem is that I want things to go back to normal, like yesterday. The reality is that it takes about a full year for all the drugs to leave your system and for things to settle down.  In addition to this, while on treatment we tend not to be physically active.  In order for our bodies to work well, we need to exercise even if we hate it.  Physical activity which raises our heart rate, or even the slow and steady kind like going for  an hour's walk daily, helps us in getting good quality of sleep as well as keeping us physically fit and active which drives away the fatigue.

Fatigue can also be associated with depression which commonly hits survivors.  It can also be a sign of other problems, such as heart issues which may be a result of your treatment or it might have been an underlying problem which has now been brought to the fore.  If you are suffering from fatigue, please go and get evaluated.  It might be something which can be taken care of if you look at it from different angles.

Of course, they also say that each course (meaning  the full round of treatment) can age your body by 10 years...since I've done three courses (1994, 1998 2010/11) then I guess I've lost 30 years and am now the equivalent of an 80 year old.  Hmm.  No wonder I feel tired!

If a doctor tells you "it's all in your head."  See another doctor if you can.  Remember, they used to think that Epstein-Barre syndrome was "all in your head" and now they recognize it and understand that there are several causes for it.

Also...don't forget...sometimes a cigar is a just might be tired!