In April 2001, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I was a news anchor for WESH-TV, and there was no way I’d be able to hide the soon-to-be bald head, freakishly pale skin, and weight loss of chemotherapy…. or the repeated multiple days I’d miss from work. I also didn’t want to push my autobiography on the 6 pm news. So to share may story and try to dispel rumors and fear, I wrote this diary. These days it would be called a blog. I was ahead of my time. 🙂 I am republishing them, mostly unedited, in hopes of inspiring and informing a new decade of cancer patients and their families. Here’s January 2002
Good Hair Updates and Return to Racing,
January 11, 2002
The last week has revealed to me yet another everyday occurance that I’ve taken for granted all my life, but is pretty cool: going to work with my real hair. Laugh if you want, but it definitely is underrated. I’ve received dozens of e-mails, phone calls, and letters about the new short ‘do. It seems lots of people like the blonde, seen in the Orlando Sentinel article, better. Even the big boss, Bill Bauman, said he liked the blonde better. Of course, he said it on the day I came back to work with dark hair. He has to work on his timing. Speaking of hair, my second most dreaded development has developed. My hair has come in wavy — I refuse to call it “curly.” The most dreaded development would have been for my hair not to come in at all. Horrors. Some people say it’ll eventually straighten out, once it gets longer. Of course, since then, I’ve spoken with several women who still have curly hair, years after their chemo. Yikes. The funny thing is that when I was in college, and for some years after, I used to get perms to make my hair wavy. Go figure. Yet another lesson in “be careful what you ask for.” The Disney Half-marathon was a whole lot of OK. Like I said last year, I only trained to about eight miles, and the half-marathon was 13.1. I figured we were good until at least eight, but we started pooping out after three miles. Still, Karen and I made it through and finished in 2 hours and 8 minutes, which really stacked up pretty well against the field of runners. The finish line never looked so good, though. I’d hoped that once the chemo drugs were out of my system, I’d be able to start building endurance, but that’s still not the case. It’s been five weeks. Maybe I’ll be stronger by the time of Ocala Half-marathon in February. 🙂 I used the half-marathon as yet another excuse to put off starting to take the Tamoxifen. After the race Sunday, I “forgot” to start taking it for two more days. Finally, I broke down and started taking it Wednesday. Dr. Dave said to expect side effects, like hot flashes, to start appearing within a couple of days since the estrogen-blocking begins immediately. So far, nothing. No weight gain. Nothing. I’ll keep you posted. I had my last (hopefully, last) appointment with the eye specialist this week. I had a lot of tearing while I was in New York. I was afraid the last Taxotere treatment might have pushed me into blocked tear ducts, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case. I got the “all clear,” and don’t have to go back unless I develop problems, which I shouldn’t, since I’m not taking the drugs anymore. I also had my last appointment with Dr. Dave, except for the 3-month check-ups that I’ll have to have. It was strange because I’ve spent so much time in the office in the last few months. Dr. Dave said I’m fine now. I’ll see him only in spin classes and running group now. I’m going to visit my grandmother next week, so I’ll miss yet another entry in the journal. I’ll be back in two weeks!
Cancer Treatment Odds and Ends (Emphasis on “Ends”)
January 25, 2002
Hi. I feel like I haven’t checked in in a long time. The trip to visit Grandma was great. It’s always slightly shocking to see elderly people infrequently. Grandma is healthy, but she seems smaller, older, and more fragile. I was glad that we went to see her.
It’s now been about three weeks since I started taking tamoxifen, and so far, no side effects. I’m being very vigilant about watching for any kind of signs, though. I always have one hand on the phone to call Dr. Dave. Hopefully, this will be yet another case of a lot of anxiety over an event for no reason. I finished up my reconstructive surgery Wednesday, too. It was easy, just like my surgeon said it would be — in and out of the operating room in less than an hour. Dr. Rotatori took out the temporary implant, the tissue expander, and put in the real implant — same size, no Anna Nicole Smith here. He also took out the port!! Yeah! It’s not even that I feel it or even notice it, but having it taken out was very liberating. I went to work the next day. It’s funny how after surgery, there’s relatively no pain, but a paper cut hurts like mad. I’m trying not to take any of the painkillers, because they make me a little sick to my stomach and kind of loopy. I did have to pull out of the Ocala half-marathon. It’s in about a week and a half, and I’m a little wary about running 13.1 miles so soon. I will be on my bike or a spin bike every day, though. I’m also now playing with the idea of going to Austin, Texas in April to ride in the Lance Armstrong Ride for the Roses. It’s a testicular cancer fund-raiser. He’s my all-time hero, and maybe I’d get to meet him! Talk about inspiring. Life really is getting back to normal now. No more regularly scheduled — frequent — doctor’s visits, and my endurance is improving, too! I had a nice long run this weekend and didn’t even get winded. One of my running partners even commented on how much easier I was breathing. I had to take a second to realize he was right! I also had dinner last week with Nona, my friend from the chemo room. She’s the one with pancreatic cancer who was told back in the spring she might only live six to eight months. Well, it’s been more than eight months, and she looks great. She played 36 holes of golf or more last week. It was really nice to see her and get updates on all the nurses in Dr. Dave’s office. If you’re not doing anything this weekend, have I got an event for you. The Track Shack Foundation’s Lady Track Shack 5K is Sunday at 7:30 a.m., beginning near Mead Gardens. It’s a fund-raiser for the fight against breast cancer, and it’s just for us girls. So far, there are more than 1,000 women registered to run. I’ll be walking, which will kill me, but I’ll be there. Check out Track Shack’s website for more information. I hope to see you there.