Friday, July 15, 2016

Six-Year Update

I get annoyed when the cancer-survivor blogs I follow don't give occasional updates to let me know how they are doing. But it is common to move on after a cancer diagnosis, and try not to look back.

So for those who so faithfully read my blog and supported me through cancer treatment, I've committed to update this blog once a year, on my cancer-versary. June 10th came and went this year and I never got around to blogging. Late is better than never!

I quit taking Tamoxifen last July. It wasn't worth it. I thought, "If this is my life, I'd rather be dead." I know that sounds dramatic, but if you reach that point, the risk vs benefit debate becomes amazingly clear. Why take a (possible) life-extending drug if it so decreases your quality of life that life isn't worth living? Going off of it was extremely difficult, causing intense mood swings that lasted about 8 months. It's leveled out now and I feel much better.

I've also been taking a sub-therapeutic dose of Effexor to help with the side-effects (and withdrawals) of Tamoxifen. If you can make it through the headaches and dizziness of the first week or two, Effexor is amazingly helpful in reducing many of the random side effects of Tamoxifen. Unfortunately, going off of it also causes intense headaches and dizziness. I'm still trying to get off of that one.

This year I've spent time grieving. Or perhaps I've just been able to identify the grief that I felt all along. I've grieved over the fact that I will likely never feel the way I did before cancer. I've grieved over the changes in every single precious relationship in my life. And mostly, I've grieved over the years I missed with my kids. I was there, but I wasn't engaged. I didn't enjoy them. I couldn't teach them like I wanted to. And there are so many things that I just don't remember. I'm beginning to see the effects my weaknesses have on their lives. It makes my heart ache.

My marriage is a constant struggle as we try to redefine our roles and figure out how to connect in new ways.

Besides that, life is good. Cancer has found it's place - as just a part of our lives and not the all-encompassing giant it once was. It has changed us. It has shaken us. It still defines us in ways…but it doesn't wholly define us. Life goes on, and we think about it less and less.

All three of the kids are in school and doing fantastic. I've been working part-time and trying to find my place in the world. Life doesn't look the way I expected it to, so I'm rewriting my expectations. It just takes time, and patience, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Dear readers, I am forever thankful for your love and prayers. I cannot imagine what this journey would be without you. Blessings!

P.S. Breast cancer is an all-out assault on ones body image and identity. I often wonder how my deformations will shape my children's view of women's bodies. One thing they will never learn from me is shame or disgust. So we approach things lightly, and have fun, even if we are a bit weird. There are no "rules" or even "norms" that go along with a cancer surgery. So we make our own.
Warning: You will see my partially-naked torso in this video (turn up the volume)…