A lot has been going on in my life! I have just had my parents here for a week, visiting from Houston. It was nice to have them here for a visit as I know it isn’t easy on either of them to travel away from their comforts of home. But that is for another post. This one, I want to catch you up with what is going on with me health-wise.
I have been on anastrozole for 6 months now. The chemo therapy – Doxil – that I had been on for a year has probably run its course in my body. I am no longer having any of the side effects of that drug. My hands and feet are not swelling and turning bright red….I am not sensitive to the sun, and my skin and mouth are not so sensitive anymore. You don’t really realize how bad it has gotten until it is better. Rich used to rub his hand along my back against my bare skin and it was like he was using coarse grain sand paper. My hands and feet were even more sensitive, as were my gums and the insides of my mouth. I lost the ability to whistle because I just couldn’t purse my lips to do it. Weird stuff like that. Fear not, I am whistling again, although I have kept my soft bristle tooth brush. The anastrozole has its own nasty little set of side effects though. I have mentioned how this tiny little white pill that I take once daily turned my life inside out. Almost over night I felt like I was 85 years old. It literally sucks the youthfulness out of my body by blocking all estrogen and progesterone in my body. My joints were swelling in my hands and feet. My joints…my shoulders, knees, ankles, and especially my feet and hands were in a lot of pain. If I was still I was fine and once I was moving, I was fine. But any transition between the two was awful. Going to Mass was awful. The sitting then standing then kneeling then sitting then standing? Catholic calisthenics were so painful. Yet this little pill was working against my cancer…so I had to find a way to tolerate the side effects. I tried taking claritan in the mornings. This is a random allergy medicine that works really well with joint pain in a lot of cancer treatments. I didn’t notice a big difference. So I started taking tart cherry chews at night. They were supposed to help with joint pain as well. Fatigue is another symptom. I crash about 4 or so in the afternoon. I just hit a wall. I can slowly climb that wall, but as the week progresses, it is harder.
On August 28th, I attended a zoom meeting with an organization called A Time to Heal. The meeting was about cancer patients and supplements. There is ALWAYS that kind individual that insists that if you take certain vitamins or minerals in high doses, it will cure my cancer. Well, even though my cancer is rare, it is well documented and it does NOT respond to any such thing. If it were that easy, it would be a treatment, I promise you. This wonderful female pharmacist from UNMC talked about that to an extent. How to tell people thank you, but not thank you. I remember a time before Rich and I were married…so over 30 years ago, and I was in the car with his family. His brother, Joe, was telling me his definition of nagging. Tell someone once that is informing them. Telling them twice is reminding them. Telling them three times is officially nagging. I am using this gauge when the same person comes up to me each time he or she sees me and gives me suggestions on how to cure my cancer with mega doses of vitamins, strict diets, and other strange, off-the-wall things. Sigh….I have a couple of those well-intentioned people in my life and it has been a struggle being polite about it. Besides, 90% of the time, I don’t want to talk about cancer. It doesn’t define me, and if it does, I am not living my life the way I should. Whew, boy, let me step down OFF my soap box and get back on track. Anyhow, this wonderful pharmacist was leading this zoom presentation for those cancer survivors and thrivers. She went through a LOT of information. What vitamins and supplements interact with the different meds we were being treated with. She got to a slide on joint pain from aromatase inhibitors, which is what anastrozole is. She had suggestions for joint stiffness and only one for pain. It was something I had never heard of. I had been taking Claritan and tart cherry without much success. I quickly starting looking up MSM…the supplement she suggested. It is a sulfur that is naturally produced in your body. Not only does it not interact with meds, but it helps with joint pain and strengthens your finger nails and hair. Bonus! I couldn’t find it at first, so ordered it from Amazon. I have since found it alone at HyVee – if is usually combined with glucosamine and chondroitin.
On Sept 2nd, I had my meeting with my oncology nurse practitioner (whom I adore) and asked her about it. She didn’t hold out any hope that any of the supplements work but it isn’t something that could hurt me, so give it a try. I got my lupron shot (see photo below) in my hip and I was off. That needle is not for the weak of heart. It is injected to the hilt in alternating hips every 28 days. I stopped by HyVee and got my COVID-19 booster shot. It ended up knocking me on my back for about 2.5 days. Although in all honesty, I think I had contracted a bad cold from Lily about the same time, which may have been why it was so awful. Everything ached so much worse….I was running a fever for about 36 hours and slept for 20 out of 24 hours the following day. Rich and Lily spent that weekend in Florida with his parents. By Sunday I was feeling human, but not great. I went to church and got down on my knees and like Susanna in Daniel 13:44, “The Lord heard her cry.” I was just so tired. Tired of cancer treatments and hurting and just being TIRED. I literally just had tears running down into my mask. I was a hot mess. I didn’t want to take the MSM until Rich and Lily were back just in the off chance I might have a weird reaction to it. So on Tuesday, I was feeling good and started the MSM. It started working almost immediately. I am not even taking the full dose of 3 pills a day…only two. My pain has decreased by about 70% and I am praising God for hearing my cry.
This week I started the LiveStrong program at the YMCA. I am moving so much better now and strength training will only help. I had my pre-evaluation last night and could almost leg press the entire stack of plates. The guy recording our maxes at that station was amazed. I don’t have thick thighs for nothing…they are pretty darn strong! By far my weakest link is flexibility in my shoulders. Past injuries and disuse has made them pretty stiff. However, Sunday night I was able to warm up Rich by throwing the softball back and forth with him, and that felt good. (not the first 2 throws – but after that!). So all in all, things are going well. I just got back from our local grocery store where I got my flu shot. Whew. Enough needles already! I two weeks before the next Lupron shot and then zometa IV bag treatment through my port. I was told I need to get a shingles vaccine at some point as well, but that will wait a bit, I think!
I did have scans last week…my regular three month scans. I received the results in my online patient chart on Monday. The two nodules I have in my lungs are stable. No growth. This is good. The lesion on my spine at L2 is stable. Also good. No new spots in chest, abdomen or pelvis. This is great. The larger masses in my pelvis show some shrinkage. Even better! So that tiny white pill is working….and now the big white capsule I am taking daily is helping with the severest of the side effects. Life is good. The next three month CT scans will be in December…and I may just wait until January. For now, I am putting the worries of cancer growth in my back pocket and moving on with my life. Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” And that is a tough lesson for a big planner like me to learn…with the diagnosis that I have. However, living each day, one day at a time, was the very best advice my surgical oncologist ever gave me. I blew it off at the time because I wasn’t in a good place to really hear its meaning of living one day at a time. Anyhow, I am overly blessed with great news for this post. Thanks for celebrating with me!