I know, I know… I’ve been MIA lately. I haven’t been writing nearly as many blog posts as I used to.
There are a number of reasons for this (none of them bad). And most of it comes down to the fact that I’ve just been busy. Busy with life. Busy doing other writing (I entered a piece into the Glamour Magazine writing contest last week). Busy traveling (another trip out east – which I’m still on). Busy planning for the holidays. Busy taking care of myself. Busy having fun with Miss M.
This week Miss M and I took off for a week long journey to NY and Massachusetts.
I had three doctors appointments in NY. Fortunately, Auntie L was gracious enough to drive down from Massachusetts to keep Miss M busy and happy while I was at the doctor. Although I have to say, keeping Miss M happy in NYC is fairly easy task. Just take a ride on the subway. Of course, Miss M has her favourite lines: the 7 train, the N & Q, and most recently the F train. She would be in heaven just riding the trains all day long. And we may just do that the next time we’re in town.
People often ask why I chose to have my surgeons in NYC even though I live in Ohio. The answer is multifaceted. Primarily, I chose NY because it is home. Because it is familiar. Because I am most comfortable here. I chose the NY surgical team because they were recommended by a fellow breast cancer warrior and friend. Honestly, I trust the NY doctors more. They have more experience, impressive backgrounds, and amazing skills. Plus, I have a soft spot for my team because they used to work at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Village – where Miss M was born.
And of course I chose NY because it provides me with the perfect excuse to come back to my beloved Big Apple on a regular basis. Being “forced” to return to NY every few weeks has been an amazing gift. Spending time in NY gives me such a boost. It allows me to reconnect with myself. Brings me back to reality. Re-energizes me. Reminds me that there is life outside of suburban Ohio.
This week I received my usual check-in and saline injection from the plastic surgeon, as well as, my two-month follow up with the oncological surgeon who performed my mastectomy. Both surgeons said all looks good. I will return to NY two more times (later this month and once in January). Then we will schedule the final surgery for April (where they remove the expander, put in my implant, and reduce & lift the other breast).
My third appointment this week was a consult with a new oncologist that a friend referred me to. I was looking to get another opinion on what is next for me. The oncologist is a young, charming, smartly dressed Park Avenue doctor. One of the country’s top oncologists and one of New York’s best doctors, he is charismatic and dedicated to his patients. He said I was a “complex” case. He wanted more time to review my stack of medical papers before making further recommendations. But he did seem to support the traditional stance that I should be taking meds for the rest of my life. However, when I challenged this, by pointing out that my next set of scans will likely reveal no evidence of disease, and questioning if it is still necessary to take all these meds when there are no tumors evident, he admitted that is something to consider.
What I took away from the meeting was his recommendation that I stay on Herceptin for the rest of my life (or until my heart can’t take it anymore), and that I have my ovaries removed at some point in the near future. He was impressed with the aggressive actions I’ve been taking thus far and encouraged me to stay on an aggressive path.
What I also took from this meeting was the feeling that I am being treated like all other stage four breast cancer patients. Which I guess is to be expected. Every doctor I see makes similar recommendations. Seems to have similar expectations. I get the sense that they don’t think I will live too long… That they feel it is necessary to endlessly blast my body with pharmaceuticals (with minimal regard to long term side effects) assuming I won’t be around long enough to have those side effects.
This is where the difficulty lies for me.
I don’t see myself the same way. Maybe I’m naive, or deluded with wishful thinking, but I honestly feel like I’m gonna be around for a long, long time. And I don’t want to go through all this only to have a heart attack in 7 years as a result of some med I took. Or die from another form of cancer or organ failure caused by the meds I am taking.
I still believe I can be the 1 percent that is cured. The small percentage that keeps cancer at bay for the rest of my life. And why not? With all that I am doing, and committed to continuing, why can’t it be me?
I consistently feel like all the efforts I am making to live the healthiest life possible are not recognized by any of the doctors I see. That anything outside of surgery or medication is discounted or ‘pooh-poohed’.
But I honestly believe that everything I am doing – from the vegan, plant based diet, to the daily exercise, vitamins & supplements, ongoing psychotherapy and mental/emotional work, removing toxins from my environment, and devotion to living my best possible life – makes a big difference. I have flipped my life upside down and committed myself to a whole new way of living. If my body/soul/and mind are healthy and balanced how can disease possibly take root? I am not just doing one thing here… One thing there… I am doing EVERYTHING I possibly can. And I will do this for the rest of my life if that is what I need to do to keep living. And the beautiful thing is that the side effects of my new healthy lifestyle have me feeling and looking better than ever. I have the energy to enjoy life. I am more centered. I am in a better place – despite having stage four cancer.
I am not done here on this planet, in this body, with this life. I have so much more to give. To teach. To enjoy. The doctors and their “standard treatment” options can take their death sentences and endless pharmaceuticals and shove ’em. Do not discount my hard work!
I continue to embrace all possibilities. And live with hope and faith rather than fear.
Love to all… And I’ll try to start posting a little more often