A week (and a day) ago, I had my last regular chemo. We brought the staff party hats, colorful N-95 masks and pizza. As previously explained, I did not ring the bell (anyways, I will continue to have twice yearly chemo to try to prevent bone cancer for the next 9 years). Still, it was fun.
I've reached a major milestone. When this all started, I figured treatment would all be over by now, although the reality I've found is that a cancer treatment really never goes away. Probably the biggest thing that continuously weighs on my mind are the results of the genomic testing I had after my mastectomy,. That showed that even with treatment, it is still highly likely that I will develop metastatic breast cancer (which is fatal). So, ending most of my chemo did feel like I was kicking off training wheels. It's been a mind shift over the past year and a half to face that I probably won't live to be old. The crazy thing is, I've found a lot of peace at that point, too: life is for living my life right now, rather than cursing not having future days that were really never mine to start with.
A week (and a day) ago, I rang in the new year with a glass of sparkling wine. It was the first alcoholic drink my oncologist had permitted me in a year and a half. It was surprising to find that I really didn't enjoy the bitter burn of the alcohol--and my whole perception of wine had shifted to indifference. Still, it was good to welcome 2022--and then I went back to my favorite soda drink.
Rick and I also met this past week with my plastic surgeon. He acknowledged that the current state of my breast reconstruction is not very good, but also showed us how the mastectomy/initial reconstruction made his reconstruction task quite difficult. It was an explanation the both Rick and I felt made sense. He also sufficiently explained why my breast reconstruction just doesn't come up to the level of his amazing work on my belly.
My biggest issues are the tissue filling my armpits and flesh sitting far off to the sides. Good thing is, there is at least a partial solution--liposuction. I won't end up with perfect breasts (because of the issues generated by the mastectomy, my plastic surgeon will never be able to contour the shape as well as he'd like). But he can make them less wide by removing the excess flesh at the sides of my chest--and they will probably be significantly smaller in cup size. That will be a big improvement. My ambition is to be able to wear a bra, hopefully a bathing suit, too--and most of all, feel comfortable. But this will take time and effort from me, too. I will need to first wait for full healing (9-12 months) to resolve the scars and set tissue from the last surgery, as well as to diet to achieve complete weight loss (getting well within the "Healthy" BMI range). Luckily, as I'm down 41 lbs from my chemo high of eight months ago, I'm well on the way.
I also had an end-of-treatment echocardiogram this week. I haven't yet met with my cardiologist, but I received the report--and the results are lackluster. On the upside, ending my current chemo treatment means no more of the Herceptin that was so tough on my heart. My next phase will be to start healing--and gradually building my cardio strength through exercise. My cardiologist will be reviewing that plan next week.
So, we're going into 2022 with imperatives to lose weight and to get fit. That's a pretty common set of resolutions, but I think I face more powerful incentives for what are typically casual annual commitments--let's see how I do!
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