• shelley@heradvice.ca
  • Vancouver, Canada

At the pace of a turtle

I don’t drive slowly, walk slowly, talk slowly or think slowly…  I really don’t do much slowly, except maybe get out of bed in the morning, but boy do I feel like this healing and getting well process is SLOW.

June started out with a great visit from Teresa and Rob while I was still struggling with so much nausea.  We went to Rodney’s Oyster Bar and had a great night.  In fact, we indulged in some wine and sang loudly all the way home in the car to songs from our youth.  I woke with a bit of a headache, which for the first time in a long while was not the fault of anything but me.  That day was a bit slow, but I was feeling really good by the evening and on Monday I woke with no nausea for the first time in weeks.  (If I only knew a bit of a hangover was going to cure that!)

It is very common for many strange things to happen when you have been thrown into surgically induced menopause.  One of the things they warn you about is weight gain. (one of my support groups said approximately 30 lbs. – which is terrifying as I am only 5 feet tall.)  Lovely right!?  Well the only good about that “on the verge of throwing up” phase, is that I really couldn’t eat much.  Bird baths and eating like a bird.  It’s so weird, I really haven’t got back to eating normally but luckily I haven’t gained or lost too much weight.  I am grateful for that as I am sure that has helped to keep my strength up.

Around the 10th of June, I was laying with Danika chatting and noticed that I was growing a left breast.  For real, it appeared that side of my chest had a breast.  I said to Dani, “Maybe I don’t need reconstruction at all, maybe they are going to grow back on their own!”  Nope, not so lucky.  That side was quite puffy, it was turning red and it was hot to touch.  Luckily I was to see Dr Macadam the next day so she did a fill of 180 ccs on my right side and left my left puffy one alone.  I started an antibiotic that day and the swelling began to go away quite quickly.  I now have 150ccs in my left and 180ccs in my right.  They are hard as rocks.  It is like having chunks of two by fours nailed to your chest.  They don’t even budge, are so uncomfortable and the skin is numb to touch.  The purpose of the expanders is to stretch the skin so that the implants can easily be exchanged and there will then be the right amount of skin for them to be natural looking.  I still question the process of reconstruction.  I think I could have been fine just staying flat.  Lots of women do.  It’s been nice to wear button up blouses that don’t tug at the chest, but my breast oncologist surgeon and the plastic surgeon felt strongly that reconstruction was the right thing to do.  In fact, Dr Macadam’s words were, “Two Years from now you are going to look in the mirror and simply see a beautiful woman.  Without the reconstruction step, you will look in the mirror and see the constant reminder of the scars left behind.”  I also spent a tonne of time chatting online with women who have been through the process and most of them are very happy that they chose that route.  I just wish it didn’t mean that I have to have one more surgery.  I’m pretty done with that.

I have had my first follow up with my Ovarian cancer oncologist this month as well.  Granulosa Cell Tumor is quite frankly terrifying.  It’s so rare and unpredictable that they really don’t know much about it.  It doesn’t seem to respond to any treatment and people I have sought out all of the world with the disease, have been given all kinds of toxic chemo drugs due to multiple reoccurrences.  It still seems that surgical removal of reoccuring tumors is the best solution.  The part that is scary for me is how my surveillance of the disease is being done here in Vancouver.  I had my apt on June 13th and had a discussion with the oncologist Dr. Lee.  She simply did a quick internal exam.  I talked to her about my new bladder challenges as well as the bloodwork that I had completed in March in the US.  As I have explained before, everywhere else in the world they do tumor marker bloodwork that indicates when the disease is coming back.  It is called Inhibin A and Inhibin B.  As I understand, you can’t have inhibin in your system without ovaries or a Granulosa Cell Tumor.  The test is sensitive though and will show rising levels before the tumor can be seen on a ultrasound or CT scan, so in Canada they think it is too much stress and expense to have the test done and have the patient worrying about where the tumor is before they can even do anything about it.  I’m pretty sure I want to know, no matter how big or small one of those little buggers might be.  I will continue to do the bloodwork state side.  Especially if there are no diagnostic tests being done on me here.  Dr Lee has referred me to a urologist however and warned me that it could be months before I get in.  In the meantime, my physiotherapist Susan has been the best help to me with some great exercises.  So far, no need for depends.  🙂

Paul and I headed to New York last week.  He was very kind in arranging a nice pod for me to sleep in for my ride there, so I pulled on the compression socks (very sexy) and climbed in.  New York is not the ideal place for a low energy person, but he had some work things arranged, by that I mostly mean golf, and I was able to sleep in one day and nap for the afternoon on another so that was great. We had a tour of New York Life from our lake family friend Jordan who we are so proud of.  That was awesome.  Paul had also reserved wonderful seats at the musical Beautiful.  It is the Carole King story and if you are a fan, it is a must see!  So good.  We were treated by Empire Life to a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium and spent one night in beautiful, quaint Greenwich, CT.  We will for sure visit again and although I was a little worried about whether I was up to it or not, I am really glad we went.

We headed from New York to Toronto where we met up with Katrina, my youngest stepdaughter and headed to the lake where Paul and his family summered for all of his childhood – Sturgeon Point.  Paul’s younger brother Bill and Bev’s wedding drew all of the Brown/Wisby clan to the Point and we had a really nice weekend.  The rest of the Brown girls were there too.  It was full of love and laughter and our cozy cottage we rented was a great resting spot.  I was super happy to have Lola and Ruby in house all weekend too. I will be so happy when I can finally lift them again… and my own suitcase too.

It’s always nice to get back home.  July Long weekends are best spent at Clear Lake in Manitoba, but I am happy to be here.  I have a routine here, it’s been my nest for months and all my pillows, teas and animals are here too.  We’ll be off again before you know it.  As life returns to normal, that’s what Paul likes to do… hop a plane to the next fun place.  God I hope normal is somewhere in the near future.

If you are still in the praying mood, I would love prayers for the disconnect that my head and my body have right now to begin to close their gap.  My brain is so ready to be well again and yet when people ask, “How are you feeling?” I would be lying to them if I said “Good.”  I hope the discomfort from the tightness of my mastectomy can begin to ease with my physio and time of course.  I hope the discomfort of the expanders will soon be gone and I pray for the bladder issues and the joint pain that fills my hips and knees to lessen as the days and weeks go by.

In the meantime, chin up and keep moving forward Shell…  #igotthis




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