Did you miss me?
Much like my last leave of absence, I've been trying to not be a cancer patient for a few months, and also there haven't really been much to share. Doctor looked into my vagina. Things looked okay. Watching that lesion. Probably just radiation side effects. The end.
I've been able to travel home to Nebraska a couple of times, to Chicago once, and I'm mostly focused on getting healthy again. I did have a few follow up appointments, though, so I figured it was time for updates again.
In April, I made a quick weekend trip to my hometown to attend the Race for Grace, a fundraiser put on by the Grace Foundation in Grand Island, Nebraska. The foundation helped my parents with some travel costs to help me last summer, and sent me a gift card, which was really handy when MetLife decided to hold my disability checks hostage. They are amazing and if you want to make a contribution or learn more, visit https://www.gracefoundationgi.org/.
I was in no condition to actually run the race, but I did freeze my ass off watching when it was 22 degrees outside. I was able to meet some of the folks who had helped my parents and I by answering questions about treatment, clinical trials, and the like. I found out my mom is known as "the tie lady" to a local oncologist. He reviewed some information about a clinical trial, and she bought him a tie to say thanks. He apparently gets compliments all the time, and just loves the tie.
I think the most important part of the trip was seeing my family. My folks were the only ones to see me while I was in treatment, and they hadn't seen me since I finished. I think seeing that I wasn't sickly and frail did a world of good for my grandparents and uncles. My cousin was a little pissed that she couldn't go see dogs at the Humane Society because I was visiting (she's 10), but I think she'll forgive me someday. We had a little lunch at my parents' house, mostly so I could say hi and not have to answer "how are you feeling?" 900 times, and also because I was home for 3 days. I also got to stay at one of my best friends' house and she was kind enough to take me to the airport at 4 am and save me a 3 hour drive to get there, which I appreciated a lot. I felt a little like a show pony, especially at the race, prancing and showing how okay I was.
I continued that prancing the next month, when Boyfriend and I went home for 10 days. One cousin graduated college, so we celebrated that and saw family I didn't see the month before. We visited Boyfriend's family and spent entirely too much time discussing his grandmother's Bobcat (LONG story) at a Mother's Day brunch. A couple of friends from work got married, so we got to catch up with them, too, which was great.
In June, we took yet another trip, this time to Chicago for my cousin's wedding. It was a very short trip, but we got to see some of the Illinois countryside and remember what green looks like (Arizona, specifically Phoenix, is very tan), and then we spent the afternoon before our flight on a riverboat tour of downtown Chicago. The wedding was held on a renovated farm, which made for beautiful scenery and a lovely wedding.
Now that I'm home for the foreseeable future, I joined a gym. I've never joined a gym before, but I hate running, and it's just too hot to bike most of the time (not to mention the sunburn I'd endure), so...gym. I signed up for personal training one day a week, which turns out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. The way I was taught to work out in high school, as it turns out, is not the most effective way to lose weight or build useful strength. What I mean is that using isolation machines and doing a bunch of cardio will build muscle and endurance, but the effect of the weight machines would be more cosmetic. My trainer and I work on specific movements that I will need for normal life, things like pushing, pulling, throwing, holding heavy things, and so on.
I'm determined to get back to a healthier weight, but I also have a knee injury from way back that flares up, and I lost a lot of muscle being essentially bedridden last year. My core is weak, and I've never had great upper body strength, but it's nonexistent now. We joined the gym at the end of May, and started working out in earnest throughout June. Our training includes the use of an InBody scanning machine, which is able to detect your muscle mass, water weight, body fat, and makes recommendations on what you need to lose, calorie intake, etc. During my first month, I gained about 8 lbs. Of muscle. The photo above is of my scan, and yes I posted my weight on the internet. You can see I also lost about 5% of my body fat. I don't expect this month's results to be quite as great, partially because it's not realistic to gain 8 lbs of muscle every month, and also because my knee started acting up, meaning I haven't been able to do squats or lunges...which happen to work large muscle groups that help burn calories more efficiently.
I can't say I can see huge results in the mirror yet, but I'm starting to feel little lumps and bumps that weren't there a few months ago. My trainer has commented that my posture has changed, though, and I can see the muscles moving when I'm working at the gym. Basically, I'm building a bunch of muscle, and some day, the fat will burn away and I'll be super buff.
On the cancer front, I've had follow up appointments over the last few months. In May, my gynecology oncologist did a physical exam, and things were about the same. Some scar tissue and radiation changes, but nothing big. I had a CT scan in June, and a follow up with my radiation oncologist. The scan was clean! No cancer detected. My colon is inflamed. I could've told you that, I think. My gynecology oncologist followed up this month, and referred me to a gastroenterologist. The inflammation is likely just radiation damage, but we're doing another scan in December to ensure there's nothing growing. I'm interested in what the gastroenterologist will say. My friend has already been there, and she was given some pills that made her sleepy (possibly muscle relaxers?), which may or may not be better than just pooping a lot.
I've been cooking the vast majority of our food the last 6 months or so, focusing on a lot more leafy greens, fresh veggies, and lean proteins. That's helped with the digestive system issues a lot, so at least I don't have diarrhea all the time, but it hasn't helped with the urgency issues. I still have to get myself to a toilet ASAP when the urge strikes, and lately, it feels like I'm never able to completely empty my bladder or bowels. There's always a little trickle of pee if I push again, and even if I know there's more in there, I can't seem to get all the poo out. It just comes out when it wants to. That leads to my having to hurry to the ladies' room twice every time I go to the Container Store, and having anywhere from 3 to 7 bowel movements in a day. As you can imagine, it makes it hard to be too productive.
Taking Imodium mostly makes me feel constipated and bloaty, which is miserable. Fiber supplements mostly make me have to go more often. Not drinking coffee just makes me grumpy, and drinking coffee only increases the urgency if I eat high fiber foods (avocado, especially). I am back to drinking Pedialyte before bed to help counteract the heat and exercise, and I drink quite a bit of water during the day. The Pedialyte seems to taste a bit better now that I don't also taste chemo meds, so I guess that's good. I'll keep you posted after I see the gastroenterologist next month.
In the meantime, I have been on an organizing spree around our house. I started following an Instagram account that feeds the perfectionist in me, and then I needed to purge all the closets and cabinets. There are still little things I want to do, but my house has never been so clean. The beagle has learned to shake and beg, and now begs whenever he wants you to give him food (which is always). It's pretty adorable. The new kitty and the old kitty sometimes act like the get along, and sometimes appear to be trying to murder each other. The vet says it's pretty normal. I get about 400 calls a day from random phone numbers, mostly trying to sell me meds for erectile dysfunction. I probably encouraged this by answering the calls last year, when I was on the phone with doctors and insurance companies, so they know my number works. I alternate between telling them to fuck off, and messing with them. One was chastised for several minutes for interrupting Hall and Oates while I was driving and bored. No matter how many times I tell them I don't have a dick, that's the first medication they usually offer.
That's all I have for updates right now. My phone is ringing, and they probably want to cure my erectile dysfunction.