Fast forward twelve months later and here I am today: completely finished with chemo, surgeries, reconstruction, weekly blood draws, and even Coumadin. For the most part, my strength and energy have fully returned, and I feel like I am genuinely living. (Meaning not just going through the motions and trying to get past each day, but actively putting forth my best effort and enjoying each and every little moment as well as the people that I am blessed enough to have in my life). I do still suffer from a frustrating “pin and needles” sensation (neuropathy) in my hands and feet. I’m not sure if this is because there is residual chemo in my body or if it is the result of permanent nerve damage. It may be something that I will always have to deal with, but I know that it is a small price to pay for me to be alive.
Some may think that being a survivor means that I am “cured”, but I am not completely out of the woods yet. The doctors will keep a very close eye on me, especially since my particular type of cancer has a high recurrence rate for the first couple of years. I am scheduled to have CT scans and PET scans every six months, and regular physical exams with my oncologist every three months.
At my doctor’s appointment this morning, they told me that I do currently have an ovarian cyst (which is scary because ovarian cancer is so closely related to breast cancer). We are hoping that it will dissolve itself between now and my next ultrasound in June. If it doesn’t, then I will insist that they perform surgery on me to remove the cyst, whether it appears to be cancerous or not. Another concern has to do with my fertility for when we start trying to get pregnant again. Although we are extremely excited about having more children, we are told that we can’t even start trying until January, when it is considered to be “safe” (because the chemo will finally be out of my system). Even then, it is likely that my body may not be able to get pregnant easily or at all. We will just have to hope and pray for the best, and of course, wait and see what happens. This is especially challenging for me, because I am so very eager to have a brother or sister for Ryan.
Thankfully, my stressors lately have been much more lighthearted than they were last spring. I worry about getting enough sleep so that I can keep up with an extremely active toddler and trying not to over-schedule us with play dates, activities, and classes (which I have a tendency to do!) I feel pressure to do my very best job on my grad school work for a demanding class this semester. But I think that, overall, these are great problems to have! And I would much rather be too busy than not busy enough.
The other day, I took Ryan to see Amy's National Garden of Hope, which is a tulip garden that was planted as a tribute to 17-year-old breast cancer survivor, Amy Erickson of Caribou Coffee. It was such a beautiful day and just perfect for our little picnic.
(For those who live in the area, this is a part of Brookside Gardens, which is one of my favorite local places to take Ryan because they have seasonal, nature-based events and exhibits year-round).