Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Like a rolling stone

Friday I met with my pixie/sprite oncologist, Dr. Von Roenn, and I mean the pixie thing as a compliment. She’s just so petite and adorable and chipper and practical – I adore her almost as much as I do Dr. Jeruss. As expected, she tells me that they’ll put me on Tamoxifen, a drug that’ll make me fat and surly (I can already hear Deanna asking, “how is that any different?”). Okay, so theoretically FatSurly only has side effects in some people, but since I was only at 0.6% or less risk of getting breast cancer in the first place, who are we kidding?

Then of course I start bombarding Dr. Von Roenn with questions. To her credit, she does NOT blanch or twitch when I start off with “Well, I read on the internet that.....”

Basically my main question is – what can I do to lessen the chance of recurrence? Since I have a cancer that’s essentially 100% estrogen positive, what should I do if anything to lower the level of estrogen in my body, other than taking FatSurly? I’ve been reading about the anti-estrogen diet, which can be summed up as follows:

Red meat
Dairy, including cheese (!)
Lots of other tasty stuff

Lots of other yucky stuff
White flour

The only positive thing here is that grapefruit = bad, and white flour = good. No, really. Far be it from me to ever MSU. So clearly the perfect food in my future world is blueberry Pop-Tarts. Or blueberry pie. I guess I can live with that.

Well, except she tells me that diet doesn’t make a difference, and that there’s really nothing I can do to prevent anything – oh, except work out. Gee, thanks. Maybe I’ll try that once in a while. (!)

And I do get the bad news that I can’t have reconstruction surgery until later next spring, which would be too late for me since I need to get my lazy ass training for IMCDA (IronSpud) which is in June, so it looks like surgery will have to wait until next fall. And yes, I do need reconstruction because they HAD TO REMOVE A GOOD PORTION OF MY RIGHT BREAST. Just thought I’d put that out there, for the folks who tell me “well, hey, at least you still have your chest!” Umm, no. And for some reason it’s usually guys who say this, but trust me, you will not be seeing me in a t-shirt, sundress, or god forbid bathing suit anytime soon unless I get this figured out. Anyone have a line on waterproof sports bras that would allow for strategic “enhancement”?

And for anyone who thinks this is TMI, hey, too bad. This is my life now, this is what I get to deal with. But I’m not saying this with a po’ po’ pitiful me intent, nah. I’d rather have a deformed chest than be, you know, dead. And if putting this out there helps anyone who might stumble on my little blog feel a little less like a freak, then that’s a good thing. (P.S. For radiation treatment, I was not in fact actually put in a big, cold, water-dripping tube upside down. FYI.)

After my appointment Friday and I’m a free woman, I get a call from Liz who suggests getting together for dinner that night, to continue the celebratory streak, which I’m all for. I meet her and Jon at Johnny’s for a drink (oh, just learned that alcohol is also on the Bad list, so I have to drink while I can), and we meet up with Jim as well. Gary’s meeting us at the restaurant. In an amusing bit of precognition, as we’re driving to the restaurant Jim makes the point that Gary doesn’t seem to have a filter, the kind that stops him before he says stupid shit. I put it down to it being a typical Russian thing, meaning Gary isn’t tactful, sensitive, or possessing any of the other niceties of polite society as far as conversation is concerned.

This becomes clear when we find Gary and all sit down, and as soon as he hears the reason for celebrating, he starts with the questions.

Gary: “So is that it, you’re finished with cancer? You’re now cured?”

I’m about to tell him that no, there’s no such thing as being cured really, and breast cancer in young women is pretty aggressive so there’s a pretty good chance it’ll come back at some point so I get to worry about that, yippee, so it might be “gone” for now, kind of, though for all I know there are cancer cells already teeming through my bloodstream looking for a friendly organ to latch onto, and all of this is why it really isn’t very helpful for people to tell me about their spitfire 72-year-old aunt who’s alive and kicking 10 years after BC, because that’s not really my kind of cancer, even though I’m happy for them, but no it’s not the same thing, and anyway this is going to be my standard response when people ask me if I’m “done”.....but I don’t get a chance to speak, because Gary continues.

Gary: “Because, you remember when we both played HNA hockey, and we had that one guy, Mark, on our team, really nice guy, and he had cancer and went through treatment and all of that. And they said he was cured, done with it, he was totally fine, and then a year later he was dead.”

There is dead silence for a moment. Then of course we all turn on him like a pack of feral dogs.

Jim: about Debbie Downer!
Me, snarling: Oh, sure, why don’t you tell us MORE stories about young people who die from cancer! Don’t you know the RULES about that?? Seriously! What the hell?!
Jon: Hey, only happy cancer stories are allowed!
Liz, shaking her head sadly: Gary, Gary...... (she makes a notation on her iPhone whatsit, probably noting that Gary will never be invited out for dinner again)

Gary continues to be soundly ridiculed for the rest of the evening, which is as it should be.

Me: Oh, hey, we’re getting waaay too jovial and happy here. Gary, why don’t you tell us another uplifting story about yet another young person who DIED FROM CANCER??

Gary tries to explain away his idiocy by the enfeebled plea of “But I thought you knew the guy!” Oh, like that makes the news all the better and okay, that I might have KNOWN the guy who died? Sure. Right.

I’m telling this story to Deanna later, and get to the part where I’m about to tell Gary that breast cancer isn’t curable per se, and she interrupts me.

Deanna: But you don’t have cancer anymore.
Me: Yes, yes, I know, you were the one calling me when I was still groggy from surgery to congratulate me on not having cancer anymore, since they had removed the tumor.
Deanna: Well, I did give you until you were done with radiation - but now, done with the excuses! No more using this whole “cancer” thing as a crutch. I know how you are. Any little thing and you’ll just run with it, whining the whole way – meanwhile, the rest of us are just slogging on, sucking it up.
Me: The rest of you with cancer, you mean?
Deanna: No, just the rest of us. And, you don’t have cancer!!

Deanna is the only one who is accorded this sort of leeway with the whole “cured” bullshit, because I full well understand just how important it is to her that I be completely healthy. You see, I know what Deanna’s raison d’etre for getting out there and training every day is. Not only does she see me as her role model (“Be like Tasha, come on Deanna, BE LIKE TASHA!”), but I’m also her rabbit, so to speak, as she guns for me and tries to beat my multitude of PRs and the like. And in order for that to happen, we need to be on a level playing field. Take IMMOO this year. Me breaking my collarbone was the best thing that could have happened for Deanna, because no matter what, had I competed, I would have come out ahead. Had I beat her by a substantial time (okay, in part because she kept futzing with that damn HR monitor of hers with the faulty batteries!), I would have looked like my usual rockstar self. But even if she had beat me, she would have only had the satisfaction of muttering about “beating CancerGirl” – and what fun is that? I still would have gotten the accolades just for finishing the damn thing.

But you know, for next year, that whole level playing field? I’m good with that. Bring it.

Anyway – now that I’m technically done with treatment – except for having to take FatSurly every day for the next 5 years and having follow-up appointments and trying to deal with a huge stack of medical bills – I’m kind of, well, at a loss. Even though going downtown every day for radiation was a pain in the ass, at least I felt I was doing something as far as treatment. But now? Now I get to wait for the other shoe to drop.

That’s not to say that I dwell on the whole thing – I just feel like I’m being realistic. But there’s a difference between thinking ok, I should be prepared for the worst, and being gloomy and depressed all the time, which is so not my style. Being pissed-off, sure. That I can do. Depressed, not really. Honestly, sometimes I think the reason I’ve had so much bad luck on a regular basis is because it helped me learn the ability to bounce back quickly. But rage? Oh yes. Which is why in addition to the mottos “doing the stupid things so you don’t have to” and “just don’t fuck with me,” I’m adding to the list “Fuck you, cancer.” (I’m accumulating so many mottos I could pass them out like cheap party favors.) I refuse to let you freak me out or take anything else away from me or keep me from living my life exactly how I choose to. So fuck you. I mean it. Fuck you.

1 comment:

Missy said...

Love the tshirt and the attitude!

You do realize that next year you get to do all those breast cancer races in the 'survivor' category right? Poor Deanna. Ordinary age group status for her : {

As for it coming back. I just don't see that happening. I have good intuition; just ask my husband who never ever gets away with anything!

FatSurly sounds like menopause. Been there done that. You won't get fat, you might get surly but at least you still have a few years before you have to deal with wrinkly elbows and knees (Can I get an Amen!)

And finally you obviously have your priorities straight. First training, racing, then in off season...boobs! Nobody in triathlon has tatas anyway!