June 2, 2013
In case you've lost track of time, I got my breast cancer diagnosis two years ago in May. So I had my annual cancer check a couple weeks ago. Just yesterday I just received the results in the mail, and I wanted to share them with all of you. Fortunately, all the tests were CLEAR!! *happy dance*
As my previous blog post described, last May was tough because of all the difficult and stressful memories it brought back. Thankfully, this May hasn't been as hard because I'm focusing on all the possibilities that lie ahead. It reminds me of the difference between how we see birthdays when we're kids and when we're adults. Most kids can't WAIT for their next birthday because each year brings new opportunities, skills, responsibilities and achievements. When we're older, each birthday seems to remind us of how long we've been around, how much we've endured and/or how much (or little) time we have left. In some ways, I feel like my life restarted after cancer. I've been reborn and am forging a new and different path from the one I was on just a few years ago. So, rather than marking my second cancerversary, I'm celebrating my second re-birthday!
In this second year since my diagnosis, I've accomplished quite a lot. Remember those two New Year's resolutions I made last year? (If you don't, they were to learn Finnish and get back in shape.) Well, I achieved them both! It think it might be the first time in my whole life that I actually fulfilled my resolutions...
Last fall, I took an(other) intensive Finnish class, which was aimed at getting immigrants with advanced degrees into the workforce in Finland. It was a LOT of work– five days a week, 4.5 hours per day, for 6 months. Although I'm not fluent yet, I definitely understand well now. I'm still a bit hesitant to speak but am now working on that with a private tutor. So maybe next year's resolution is to actually be able to speak well!
As a health educator, I knew what I needed to do to lose weight and get in shape, but getting started is the hardest part. The breast cancer rehabilitation class I took last spring gave me the final push and support I needed to get going. Since then, I've lost 42 pounds and 13% body fat. I went from a US size 16/18 to a 10/12! Although looking good and having one's clothes fit are huge perks, the most important outcome is that I feel great. I am strong and have more energy and the endurance to do the things I really enjoy.
One of the things I've really missed since moving to Finland is my career. Fortunately, the Finnish class I took involved an internship period so we could get some experience in a Finnish workplace while practicing our Finnish skills. Though some very lucky networking, I managed to organize an internship in my field (public health). The first internship led to a second and then to a temporary work contract. Via more networking, I also landed a second, three-month contract with a health technology start up company. So for the past three months, I've been working full time and loving it! Working two part-time jobs while raising two children, getting in shape and learning a new language has not been easy. However, the fact that I have the stamina to do it just two years after a cancer diagnosis is a testament to how far I've come in the last year.
I still have plenty to do, such as trying to land more steady employment. However, you're supposed to learn to sit up on your own, crawl and stand before you are ready to walk. So I'm hoping to add some more to my list of skills and achievements by my third re-birthday!
May 31, 2012
What has helped me emotionally cope with this month is the camaraderie of my fellow survivors in my breast cancer rehabilitation class. Oddly enough, most of these dates fell on Thursdays, which is the day the class meets. So it was truly a blessing that on most of those days I was surrounded by 9 other women who could completely understand!
February 1, 2012
Staying Fit During Cancer- by David Haas
Living with cancers, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, is a difficult process that many people need all the help they can to get through it. Being strong and positive is one of the best ways to survive and one of the best ways to stay strong and healthy during cancer is to stay fit. The benefits of fitness and helping to treat and live with cancer have been noted by a wide variety of sources.
For example, The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has stated, "Exercise-even minimal physical exertion-increases heart rate and muscle flexion, while boosting your body's tolerance to conventional bone care treatments such as chemotherapy." They are speaking specifically of bone cancer but this benefit should be available to all patients that are suffering from cancer.
Another major benefit is that it increases your health and helps you live longer and stronger. Obesity has been linked to increased risk of cancer, cancer death and recurrence after treatment. Staying fit helps keep you thinner, stronger and healthier. This helps increase your generalized life span after you have beat cancer.
A healthier body is more likely to be able to eliminate a recurrence of your cancer. Dr. Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, states , "Several recent studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of the cancer coming back, and a longer survival after a cancer diagnosis."
Improved mental health is another link to increased fitness and cancer. People who exercise during cancer are taking control of their lives and eliminating the demand cancer places on the mind. Exercise endorphins will also help increase their mood, boost their self confidence and help reduce fatigue. Fatigue can make a person feel weak so eliminating this as much as possible can help a cancer patient feel stronger and happier.
These benefits can begin as quickly as 8 to 12 weeks after you begin exercising. A study done by doctor Matthew Buman of Standford University found that patients that included vitality boosting exercises into their life during treatment and increased fitness, vitality, perceived stress and fatigue. They found that sustaining this activity preserved the improvements for the entire length of the year based study.
Fitness during your treatments may seem difficult to start, due your pain and stress. Please talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
December 14, 2011
I was really surprised to find that a number of the chemo side effects didn't actually START until between the fifth and sixth (aka last) treatment, and some continued to get worse even after treatment ended. My best guess is that some of the cumulative effects finally built up to a critical level during the last treatments, and it might be for this reason that many treatment regimens stop after six. Perhaps that's the threshold where chemotherapy's toll on the body outweighs its cancer-fighting benefits.