Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Something to Celebrate!

I get the call. It's usually a nurse by the name of Frenchie and she's almost always assigned to contact me after a scan. In this case, it was pertaining to the PET scan I had on Monday morning. It was Tuesday morning and I was at the Oviedo Y. I needed to make up for lost time. Since I could not exercise on Sunday due to test prep and Monday was a total washout (being exhausted from an early morning trip to the hospital) I wanted a real workout. I had missed most of Zumba but did the last 15 minutes of class with Sharon. Then, I stayed for RIPPED with Francine. I already knew before even starting that I would be pushing -- but, I also figured I needed to jump start my weekly workouts.

Once home, I kept trying to reach Frenchie with whom I was playing phone tag. Finally, I heard her familiar voice. The word "negative" came through loud and clear. For the past eight years, I have remained in a cancer-free status. The maintenance program established by Dr. Nikita Shah, MD has been working. And, for this, I am extremely thankful.

Hearing words like "cancer-free" or "no signs of cancer" are true music to my ears. My entire body goes into a mode where I wish I were capable of "jumping really high!" In my mind, I am jumping to the ceiling and beyond. I could reach the moon with my jump! I could reach the stars and world's beyond -- all because I am so happy! While I may not be able to physically jump or move fast these days, fortunately, my mind can more than make up for what my body lacks. I was doing somersaults when I heard the word "negative." I was ready to climb to the top of the highest mountain peak! Prepared to swim across the ocean! Yes, in my mind (within my dreams) I can do anything. And, believe or not, I actually know that a great deal of my physical good health has come from my mental happiness and well being. There is a direct tie-in between the physical and mental or emotional. Being happy and feeling good mentally always helps when it comes to also feeling good physically. Exercising on a regular / consistent basis has tremendously helped me over the years to accomplish my goal of "getting better and stronger everyday in every way." 

I have so much to celebrate today! I have a lot to celebrate tomorrow! While I remain a metastatic breast cancer survivor, I continue to enjoy this cancer-free status. I am NOT cured. I will not be considered "cured" until the actual "cure" for my particular type of breast cancer is found. (I believe this will happen within my lifetime.) However, every time I have a scan and the results are "negative" for cancer or any sign of cancer -- I celebrate another victory in my journey.

And today, I finally decided on how I would publish my book "High Maintenance." I will get with a trainer at Apple (where I have a One to One training program) and begin learning a program that can take my manuscript and create an actual book. Once I complete this process, I can publish online -- those who have iBooks or other such devices will be able to purchase my book. Then, once I demonstrate the ability to generate readers who are buying my book, then I can decide on the publishing future of "High Maintenance." Ultimately, I want to see a real book on the shelves of local bookstores. Based on today's great news, I know this will happen. "High Maintenance... Surviving Cancer at All Costs," is merely the beginning of my newest adventure -- becoming a bestselling author! For me, this will be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams coming true. (Right now, my prayers of remaining "cancer free" have been answered and for this, I am eternity grateful.) 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Yes, Another PET Scan -- Anther Test of Patience

Are you interested in good news? Great! Then I have some to share.

I will have my routine PET Scan tomorrow, June 24. The good news is that I have not had a scan since the end of last year. Apparently, my oncologist is beginning to feel that I am doing well enough that the time between scans can be increased, even if by a month or so. For me, it's another right of passage. 

I continue to experience these "baby step" moments -- just another part of my reality as a cancer survivor. It seems almost like yesterday when she announced the end of my Herceptin treatments. I was totally overwhelmed. Then, I realized I would only go to MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando every 12 weeks for my Zometa treatments. I was "buying" back more time to live. (The good news just keeps getting better.) Even my trips every 4 - 6 weeks for port flushes and labs (I visit South Seminole Hospital for these quick fixes.) have become so routine that I need to check my calendar to make sure I don't miss an appointment. Actually, appointment is not really accurate since I do not have a "real" date or time set for these trips. I merely show up when it is convenient for me and the staff at South Seminole's Infusion Department are very accommodating. My life as a breast cancer survivor has definitely changed for the better.

My overall health is good. I feel great most days, except for those times when my "chronic pain" begins to settle in. I could complain about the hip / lower back pain (the left side is still the worst) but truth is, I am so happy to not be living at pain levels of 10 or higher that right now, I am living the good life. I still reach for breakthrough pain medications, but much less.  (My femur breaks reached 100 on the standard scale of 1 -10. And after my lung surgery, I lived 24/7 with level 10 pain all the time.) I personally find that exercise is a wonderful pain reliever. My basic cycling class has become a favorite especially since my hip pain disappears for the 30 minutes I am on the bike plus an additional time period afterwards. I still do a 60 minute aqua fitness class -- although there are times I stop at 30 or 40 minutes depending upon how I am feeling. This class is later in the day (5:45 p.m. on Monday) so there are times when I am already tired but still attend the class. I simply do what I can. Then I do Zumba. Yes, for those of you who cannot even imagine this -- I love Zumba! It's fun! It's all about having fun and no matter what you may think, it can be done at a low impact level. Trust me. I am usually standing next to an 80 + year old woman (a wonderful Y friend) and the two of us are enjoying class. We move slower than others -- our jumps (we don't jump at all) and our quick turns (we don't do those either) -- we have our own unique styles. However, here's the great news. Despite the fact that I may not be jumping high or moving fast, I am still getting great benefits from these Zumba classes. Cardio pulmonary wise I am definitely doing something right. My cardiologist tells me to keep "doing that Zumba thing." And my pulmonary doctor was amazed by my latest test results. My lungs are doing well -- I have very mild asthma which is basically exertion oriented. (I use my emergency inhaler before classes to keep my airways open.) I have been able to see test results go from severe to mild. When I say I feel good,  I know that exercise can and does make a HUGE difference. 

As usual, I am doing the PET prep diet. I call it the extreme Atkins diet -- all protein. No carbs. And no exercise or exertion since as a diabetic, my glucose levels may be lower than usual today. Oh and by the way, I never take these tests for granted. Like any "normal" person or as a "normal" cancer survivor, I am still having a slight anxiety attack. Since I cannot exercise, I have been walking (slowly) around the house today both going crazy from boredom as well as feeling a tinge of anxiousness. I would be totally "insane" if I did not exhibit some degree of concern. These PET scans are scary. They are designed to see all the way down to the cellular level within the body. Usually, if I get any written comments from the reviewing physician, it is a note that there is more arthritis. (It is not written that way, since doctors "love" using medical lingo.) But, as Dr. Shah (my medical oncologist) told me back in the very beginning, "arthritis does not kill." The pain from it may seem that way, but after years of reports indicating more locations of this condition - - quite honestly, I have come to embrace it. I even developed a "chant" where the techs and I would actually say things like "Let's hear it for A for arthritis." 

Tomorrow, I will be in a very cold room (they will wrap me in warm blankets) and I will be spending about an hour waiting for the nuclear drug to go throughout my body. I will be hanging out waiting. Just waiting. (Cancer patients do that a lot.) Then, I will walk over to one of two rooms where they have the PET scan. This part of the entire process does not take very long. It is shorter every time as technology improves. After I am done, I will find my way to a place where I can get a bite to eat. My usual post PET diet is a large amount of carbs. (Pancakes, lots of bread, fruits of all kinds.) I will eat my way through "carb-ville" and enjoy every moment of it. 

Then, the true test of patience begins. I wait .. again. This time. for the test results. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ready for Publication

"High Maintenance" is ready for publication. The editing and proofing has been completed. Now, the search for a publisher begins.

I have been actively looking for options. I really want to go "big time" with my book. I know my readers include not only cancer survivors and their caregivers (families) but anyone with a chronic medical condition, anyone living with chronic pain (both physical and mental), those dealing with side effects from drugs and treatments, individuals with diabetes, asthma, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea; individuals who have dealt with the loss of a loved one; men and women dealing with relationship issues; and much more.

"High Maintenance" is more than a look into 12 years of my journey through life after a cancer diagnosis. It is a roller coaster / merry-go-round ride through my life and those around me who had to deal with the issues I also dealt with. I never stopped believing I would make it through those darkest hours, although there were those moments where I had doubts and fears. I faced those horrific experiences -- sometimes with laughter and jokes, other times with tears and genuine nightmares. Yes! I even thought the unthinkable for a brief time. When the pain (both physical and mental) became so much I could barely make it through an hour, I thought those deep, scary thoughts. It took much more than my supportive family and friends to get me through. I had a (and still do have) wonderful team of medical professionals standing by my side. After surgeries, radiation treatments, hormonal drugs, chemotherapy and much more... "Everyday in every way I am getting better and stronger."

If you know a publishing rep or a publisher, please contact me with that information. I have tried to find a rep, but apparently many of them are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. With over 36 years of professional writing experience, I want to bring "High Maintenance" to the masses. I have readers nationwide (even worldwide) ready to read the book. I simply need help with the next step.

"High Maintenance" will make it to the top!