All I can Do is Smile


The end of the chapter

I’ll start with the important news: yesterday’s surgery went perfectly and that damn port is GONE! I felt pretty fantastic yesterday, but today am feeling far more sore. Probably because, in feeling so good, I was like “Look! I can stretch! Look! I can straighten! Watch me as a reach for things above my head!”

After being hunched over the past 2 weeks, this was pretty dang exciting.

Today, there won’t be any reaching or stretching.

The surgical site looks great. My doctor used the same incision area from when the port was placed (1.5″ wide on the right side above my ribs). Sidenote: I JUST realized a few days ago that my port was on my PORT side. Nautical humor. Ba dum ching.

Even with the confirmation of a clear CT scan, the removal of the port it what makes the end of this cancer experience real. I feel whole once again.

This week is all about recovery, because next week, I’m back at work full time. (SOOOOO excited!) There are still some visits scheduled with my oncologist (post-op next week, and then the first post-chemo follow-up to confirm a true NED mid-month) as well as the breast specialist, starting with a breast MRI the 3rd week of July.

So, while things with my body aren’t actually DONE yet (and won’t be for some time), I feel like the hard part is over. Here’s to hoping that’s true.



Surgery (#3) is scheduled

Port-removal surgery is officially set for Monday, June 27. I won’t know the actual time until the day before (what’s up with that?!) but the procedure should be short and sweet. Or, rather, just short. Recovery time should be minimal. The side the port is on will be sore since there has likely been some scar tissue accumulation over the past 6 months.

Speaking of which, I totally aggravated the port side with the increased use of my core muscles. Argh! I have to back off of exercise until the pain subsides. Trying to figure out what I CAN do without using my core… that’s a tough one.

Calve raises?

I got nothing.


Cancer Free

Turns out, being told you no longer have cancer is really similar to being told you don’t.

Numb with shock, immediately crying upon hanging up the phone, the entirely surreal feeling about the whole thing; these are the constants between diagnosis and being told you’re clear.

The main difference: the feelings that ultimately emerge. With my diagnosis, that was heartbreak and fear, but also resolve. With the latest news, relief, hope, and happiness. Like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I meet with the doc on Tuesday to schedule the port removal, which she says should be able to be scheduled quickly since it’s a short procedure. From there, I’ll see her again at the end of July for our first monitoring appointment, and a true “No Evidence of Disease” (NED).

I suspect this blog will start slowing down as my treatment comes to an end (until we take on the boobs). Thank you for coming along with me on this journey. For letting me talk endlessly about poop. For the comments of encouragement and love, which I read multiple times during shitty days to help keep my spirits up. You strengthened me and helped me beat this monster. For that, I am grateful.


The Biopsy

Fasting all day for an appointment sucks. SUUUUUUUCKS. Especially when you’re trying to be a functioning adult. (I’ve started taking on more projects with my job, as I ease back into full time work come July.) I hit the wall shortly before we had to leave for the appointment, which was just as well. I donned the most comfortable clothes I own and off we went.

Fasting all day sucks. Fasting sucks even more when you learn the surgeon performing your biopsy is still finishing up his first case from the morning and there are three people ahead of you.

Silver lining: since I was so focused on being hungry and what I planned eating after the biopsy, that there wasn’t much brain energy left for worrying. I only snapped out of hanger at my husband once, when he brought his freshly cooked lunch into the office we share. I consider these both wins.

We made the best of the wait, me powering through a new book, and Kenji watching a cycling race (no surprise there). The nurses, as usual, were attentive and kept me stocked in warm blankets.

The actual procedure didn’t take too long. I’ve never had a biopsy before, let alone a CT-guided one. I did not have to drink the icky fluid of previous CT scans, but they did sedate me for this one (I was awake, just VERY relaxed, and happy — yay happy juice).

The radiologist scanned me a few times so the doc could decide how he wanted to go at the cyst and we learned that one of the three had disappeared! (FUCK YES!!!!) Then, onto the business at hand. They aspirated the cyst on the left side of my abdomen and told me it was all liquid (good thing) and a normal color (also a good thing). The other cyst was in a place not easily accessible and right near my aorta, so they are only testing this one. In theory, they look the same, so they should be of the same make-up.

I should have results in about 3 days, if my doctor decides to call me with the outcome, which she typically has. Else, I have a follow up with her next Tuesday and I’ll know more then. Clearly, I’m hoping for news sooner rather than later.

You’ll know more when I know more! Go out and kick this week’s ass!


Beginning Again

An hour after Bikram yoga was done, I will still sweating, red-faced and wobbly.

And completely blissed out.

Today’s class was one of the hardest I’ve ever done. Admittedly, it’s been nearly 2 months since my last visit, so that certainly doesn’t help the situation, but I had to do something I’ve never done in class: leave the room.

If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to express any interest at all in yoga in front of me, I’ve no doubt proselytized the glory of Bikram. I probably told you the heat isn’t that bad. That it’s not only the physical component, but the mental exercise as well. That all the poses are beginner poses that can be stepped up as you improve. That, at the end of class,  the feeling of peace and tranquility that overtakes you makes all that heat worth it, and the only focus in your first class should be to just stay in the room. Just. Stay. In. The. Room.

And today, I left the room.

Every Friday, I receive a “Note of Grit & Grace” in my inbox. The writer, who also happens to be a personal friend, shares her life in real time and the lessons she learns. This week’s email focused on how hard it is to be a beginner. (Sidenote: she also hosts an AMAZING podcast that I am obsessed with. Definitely worth checking it if you’re into that sort of thing.)

I thought of her email as I reflected on today’s yoga practice and I realized something: I’m a beginner again. I have retained the knowledge of my physical pursuits, but the body cannot respond in the way it used to.

It’s hard to begin again. To remember what you used to be able to do and to instead, accept a new reality. It doesn’t mean I’ll never be where I was again, it just means I need to rebuild what was lost while my body was busy fighting a bigger foe than fat. (*cough* fuck cancer *cough)

Today, I left the room. And that’s okay. I showed up. I did my best.

I’m a beginner again. And that’s okay too. You have to start somewhere, and I’m starting here, with the words from Nicole’s email to remind me:

“I will become the person I want to be – one tiny, scary step at a time, with the goal of being a little better than the day before.”

– Nicole Antoinette

Randomly related sidenote: If you want to nerd out on hyperthermic conditioning (the benefit of heat in exercise) check out this video from Dr. Rhonda Patrick.