wide-eyed at 4am


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Coming Back

This is a process. I knew it would be.

But the summer heat made it even worse.

I’ve been able to start running again but after spending a year doing mostly walking on a treadmill, actually running any distance at all in an outdoor environment is challenging.

This summer has been brutal – whether you’re trying to develop a workout rhythm or not.

And with my situation, it’s actually pretty amazing that I’ve even been able to tolerate running outdoors at all.

I’m a little stubborn. Don’t laugh. I know that is not very informative to most who have actually send my stubbornness in action. So telling me that trying to make a workout comeback in June, July and August with heat and humidity at record highs was useless.

I’m improving and – as the weather becomes more tolerable – I continued to run easier and push my stamina.

One of the most difficult aspects of this is breathing.

I still have considerable tightness in my left shoulder. And when you insert an implant under the muscle, the tightness is way beyond noticeable. It can be downright painful.

So deep breathing  – like when you’re running – feels hindered and is uncomfortable.

You sort of just can’t do it. You can take slow deliberate breaths but quick deep breathing is almost impossible.

Running isn’t the only activity of mine that has been affected. Singing is another challenge.

Earlier in my treatment (during chemo and radiation) I was experiencing difficulty in breathing because of lung capacity issues that are a direct side effect of these treatments. Some people experience severe issues. The side effect can even turn into permanent debilitation. My side effect breathing issues were minimal but enough to impact singing. (I wouldn’t know if it affected my running because I was too weak or sore to run during these treatment steps anyway.)  It was more that I got light-headed when trying to hold notes out and I had to take lots and lots of breaths to get through lines that could normally be sung using a single breath. The most recent issue is more physical as far as the tightness in my chest just won’t let me pull the air in quickly enough for it to be useful.

So coming back has to do with several things:

  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Hair & Fingernail Regeneration
  • Stamina/strength/flexibility for normal activities (cleaning house, yard work)
  • Getting back in shape
  • Finding my new normal
  • Mentally believing that I’m getting the best of this disease

It’s challenging and sometimes frustrating. It’s amazing and fun. It’s difficult and sometimes overwhelming. But I can do it. I AM doing it.


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Roll With It

Facebook memories have been a bit of a blessing for me over the past few months.

I see first infusion days and recovery time pictures when I couldn’t even manage to make my way off the sofa.

I also see me with my “old hair.”

I didn’t think a person could really forget what they looked like. But some of these pictures re surprising to me. After gaining this new perspective, I don’t think I want to go back to the old look. It just looks ike too much hair. Of course, after you’ve first had to get accustomed to the way you look with no hair and then the way you look in a wig and then the way you look as your hair returns, less hair begins to be the new normal.

I’m lucky short and silver is in style because I have that down.

The memory pictures from last year also show me how far I’ve come. While it was taking place, my treatment seemed a bit never-ending. But now it seems like it’s been only a short time since it was all happening.

Come October 15, I will “celebrate” 1 year, 4 months since diagnosis. Since then, I’ve had (not necessarily in order) 3 surgeries, 16 chemo treatments, 32 radiation treatments and 5 month’s of the hormone inhibitor medication. But I’m not finished.

On November 2, I have (what I hope will be) my final surgical procedures. This surgery sort of promises to be much less impactful than my other 3. It’s mostly superficial tweaking. Remember the nipple conversation? It’s time. And actually, my skin has healed so well that it started out that the surgery would be moved up from the predicted timeframe of 6 months from the end of radiation. In actuality it will almost fall 6 months from the end of that process but not because of my need for it to happen that way. It’s actually because of the need to sync up a very busy plastic surgeon with an equally as busy operating room suite! After this surgery, only the nipple tattoo will remain!

That will take us into 2017 – which I really wanted to avoid. But what can you do?

If there is one thing that 2015 and 2016 have taught me it’s to roll with it.

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Most things are out of my control anyway so just let it happen.

Once I figured this out, I have been able to just accept things and move on.

Oh, there are things that ARE within my realm of control but those aren’t necessarily the stressors.

And the reason I can just roll with it? Letting God have it. Prayer. Faith. Support.

Even when things upset me – taking a deep breath – and remembering who is really in control gets me through it.

Example: I’ve had several conversations with my insurance company. (Big shock, right?) And of course, each time I call, I get a different customer service person, of course. They each have their own “expertise” let’s call it. And this has caused me to get various answers to the same questions.

Finally on Monday I thought I had (with the help of one of these customer service folks) gotten some questions answered. Since (on Thursday) I’m having the colonoscopy screening that I should have had while undergoing chemo last Fall, I called my insurance company to make sure that this is a covered “event.” Imagine my surprise when they told me that I would have to pay because my out-of-pocket has not yet been met.

Apparently, on Monday I was misinformed about a claim by my apparently less than informed customer service person who had since refiled that claim – which caused my filed claims and associated costs to me to change – and took the last $1500 that put me over my out-of-pocket away. Eck!

My head almost exploded. But I regained my composure and talked through my experience from Monday with the customer service person for that day. The call ended with this person going off to have a discussion with an underwriter and to further examine exactly what had transpired on Monday and what misinformation I had been given.

Turns out that a resubmitted Carolinas Health Care claim looked like a new claim. I thought the insurance company had (in error of course) mis-categorized this claim as one that would not be paid at 100% as should happen when I reach my max. Because this was a duplicate not a separate claim, it took the $1500 toward the maximum amount back.

My point was that – since they misinformed me and resubmitted a claim that should have never been resubmitted – they should just hit the undo button.

The customer service person promised to call me back with the resolution by the end of the day or the next morning. My expectation was that I wouldn’t hear from them for a few days. So I would be wondering whether I would have to be prepared to pay a portion this Thursday or not.

Much to my surprise and delight, a call back came in less than an hour. And – even better – they could do exactly what I had mentioned. They could hit the undo button and restore the amounts to their state prior to the resubmission. Meaning that I would be a 100% coverage again! Yay!

During that hour of waiting, I really didn’t have a blood pressure spike or pace like a caged panther waiting for the call. I said to myself. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.

I suppose the cancer journey teaches you that you can do that. You can just roll with it and deal with it as it comes to you.