Thursday, September 28, 2017

Carpal Tunnel go away!

Ouch. My goal today was to work more on my book manuscript. I had great aspirations of what I'd accomplish today but as I began typing, I felt the ugly sting of my carpal tunnel syndrome flaring up.

It's been dormant since I retired, probably because I haven't spent hours and hours typing like I used to do when I worked a 9 to 5 job. Back then, I have no idea how many words I typed a minute, but at last count, it was over 100. That being said, you can only imagine how many words I typed a day working for one of Atlanta's largest Southern Baptist churches.

I have typed since I was a child but didn't learn correct finger placement until I was in the 9th grade of high school. Sitting under the tutelage of Mrs. Ann Brake, I was so happy to move from a manual typewriter to an electric. It took a little time for the finger placement to make sense and for my fingers and brain to make the connection but when they did, my fingers flew! Every job I've had since learning proper finger placement has revolved around typing in some form or fashion. My poor wrists can attest to that.

Even though my wrists are burning, I've managed to get some work done on my book. I'm now up to chapter number five and I've typed 22,165 words! That's a lot. I think it's time to give my wrists a rest so I'm going to end my post here but I'm so thankful I don't have to write things by hand any longer. Typewriters and keyboards have certainly made my life so much easier. And as the famous Margaret Mitchell said in her book, Gone with the Wind, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Every little things gonna be alright

It's been a little while since I've written, so I felt like today was a good day to catch up. You've heard that old adage - no news is good news? Well, it's true! I am happy to report that absolutely nothing eventful has taken place in my life for some time now and it feels absolutely amazing. Of course I still deal with the daily after effects of breast cancer -  low self esteem, fatigue, and lymphedema, but those little creeps are going to be with me for the rest of my life, I guess, so I'd better get used to them and move on.

Fall is coming and I'm thankful! That means cooler weather and long sleeve blouses. Sweaters and layering are my best camouflaging tools. I'm still embarrassed by the girth of my upper arms (thanks, lymphedema) and finding tops that fit is a constant challenge. If I buy clothing a few sizes larger, the arms fit loosely and comfortably but makes me look like I've got room for a crowd elsewhere. So what's a girl to do? I guess buy a pattern, modify it, and get busy sewing...

Speaking of sewing, I made a new tablecloth for my formal dining room table yesterday. I have a large oval cherry table and it seems manufacturer's don't seem to think anyone has oval shaped tables any longer. I can find pre-made tablecloths in rectangular, square, and round shapes but not oval. It's frustrating but I'm thankful I know how to sew.

My energy level seems pretty consistent these days. I usually go strong from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and then my get up and go departs. I've learned to plan accordingly and when I have a big project, I get started on it early. I work hard until mid afternoon and then, when I feel the fatigue setting in, I stop. It's been hard to get used to but as I've set these healthy boundaries for myself, I'm able to feel better.

I've been working on my book for several months now. I never thought it would be so hard to process my thoughts and put them down in a cohesive order, but it has. I find I don't make time during the day to write much for myself. I'm always working on articles for the breast cancer magazine or working on book reviews for Christian companies. While I enjoy doing those things, I really need to focus on my own project now. I'd hoped to complete my book by December but now it looks like I'll be pushing into next year.

We've got several trips planned before the end of the year and I'm looking forward to those little getaways. It's amazing how rejuvenated I feel after returning from a small trip. Just being able to step out of my familiar surroundings into a different environment is very therapeutic.

It's strange not seeing a doctor every other month now. I'm finally on the six month regimen with my oncologist. While it's scary not having that constant safety net of periodic checkups, I'm enjoying feeling more normal. Hospitals, medical offices, and labs have been my world for the past three years. I feel like I've broken free from my ragged rope tether and I'm running freely through the world of good health...AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!

So, that's all that's happening in my world right now. What's happening in yours?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Affordable Testing For Cancer Genes Is a Gift

As I was watching Good Morning America, one story caught my attention. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a medical consultant for the TV show, shared information about the recent development of an affordable and accessible genetic testing program developed by the health service, Color. The test allows patients to perform a simple at home saliva collection and submit the sample for testing. The company claims, on their website, their goal is to “expand physician-supported access to genetic testing to help every person, everywhere understand their risk for hereditary disorders.”

Recently, when my youngest daughter needed a mammogram to check a suspicious area in her breast, I became concerned. Her doctor asked about our family medical history. She wanted to know if anyone in the family had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer and, if so, if they’d had the BRCA test performed. My daughter explained there was indeed a history of breast cancer. When her doctor asked which family members were affected, she explained only her mother had received a breast cancer diagnosis.

After my daughter’s appointment, she shared about the doctor’s request for information on genetic testing. I’d never been tested for the BRCA genetic mutation and wondered if this was a test I should have performed.

I contacted my oncologist immediately and asked her advice explaining concerns for my daughter. She assured me the test was unnecessary considering my age and the fact that there was no previous history of breast cancer in my family. I felt compelled to push further and asked if it would be possible for me to have the test anyway. I wanted to make sure my three daughters had as much information as possible for future reference especially with my own history of breast cancer.

The oncologist explained the testing was extremely expensive and, although I had good health insurance, she didn’t feel the test was necessary. I accepted her explanation and left it at that. But there was a little nagging voice inside my head telling me it would be a good thing to know whether I carried the BRCA mutation.
Saliva collection container

According to the National Cancer Institute, “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.”

“A harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s mother or father. Each child of a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes has a 50 percent chance (or 1 chance in 2) of inheriting the mutation. The effects of mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are seen even when a person’s second copy of the gene is normal.”

Without my oncologist ordering the BRCA test, it would be impossible to have it completed. Insurance wouldn’t pay for any unnecessary medical procedures and I surely didn’t have thousands of dollars to shell out for genetic testing. I gave up hope of having the test completed and told my daughter we’d just have to hope I wasn’t a carrier of the gene.

As Dr. Ashton went over the collection procedure and the simplicity of submitting the saliva for testing, I knew this was an answer to my dilemma. According to the website, the analysis of the salvia sample could be performed and results mailed back to the client within three to four weeks. It would be possible for me to have results in time for my daughter’s follow-up mammogram.

But I can’t just order the test on my own. The website does explain “All Color Tests are ordered by a physician — either your own or an independent physician who will review your information and can order testing on your behalf. If any questions arise, the physician will contact you. Your physician will receive a copy of your results if they have ordered testing for you, or we can send them a copy per your request.”

And that makes sense. It wouldn’t be wise for someone to order the test and receive results without a physician’s involvement.

I’m curious what my test results will reveal. I’m hoping they don’t say I’m a carrier of the genetic mutation for BRCA1 or BRCA2. I would feel so much better knowing the chances of my daughters developing breast cancer are lowered because I don’t carry either of these breast cancer genes.

The website does state if there’s a family history of breast cancer, it might be wise to choose the more extensive hereditary genetic testing. The broader test costs $249 and analyzes many other gene mutations. Even though this test is a little more expensive, it’s still much more affordable than the cost of other genomic tests.

Bringing affordability to genetic testing is a wonderful gift for those who have been or who may be affected by breast cancer in the future. By simply submitting a sample of saliva and mailing it in, a client can receive information quickly. This will allow more people a chance for early detection and hopefully equip doctors with the tools necessary for assessing cases and starting treatment in the beginning stages of cancer.

Advancements being made in the field of genetic testing are mind blowing. Daily, scientists and medical professionals work diligently to provide the best information possible to the public. Their scientific discoveries are helping to empower people to take better control of their health care. Perhaps one day soon we’ll celebrate the victory of the complete eradication of breast cancer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Storms on the horizon

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have caused a lot of destruction to the United States and surrounding areas. Many people have lost their homes and all they owned. It's horrible to watch the news and see the devastation.

In between the hurricanes, Mexico experienced an 8.1 earthquake. These are troubled times for many.

In Georgia, we felt no effects from Harvey but my daughter and her family did. They live in Texas. It was ugly. Irma was another story. We experienced high winds, heavy rain, and power outages. It wasn't nearly as horrific as Harvey. We are blessed.

As I write this post,  Hurricane Jose is brewing in the Atlantic but it's not projected to hit the U.S. and I'm grateful. We don't need another tragic event so soon after the last two. Hopefully Jose will blow far away from the states and dissipate before causing damage.

When hurricanes form, we have no idea where they're going until days into the forecast. Meteorologists work hard to give us the most updated information as quickly as they can but sometimes, it isn't fast enough.  All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best...and that's exactly what it feels like to have cancer.

When I was diagnosed, I felt the strong winds of a mighty storm begin to blow. They were sultry and gentle at first but grew in intensity as the days went by. Although I couldn't see the storm, I knew it was there. I felt its presence. I knew it was coming. 

I did all I could to prepare but instead of gathering water and other necessary survival items, I began with mental preparations. I started to have conversations with myself about what the future might hold. I role played different scenarios and tried to determine how I would react to each. I felt more secure knowing I had a readiness plan in place. 

When my health storm intensified, I battened down the hatches and did whatever necessary to insure my survival. It was a challenging time. Some days were more difficult than others, but I was determined to ride it out. I wanted to live. 

I watched as the storm whipped and swirled around me. Powerless to control its affects on me, I found myself often huddled in a corner tears streaming down my face. The tears did nothing to comfort me although they did provide an emotional release. 

The storm lasted for 3 years. The intensity has ebbed and waned. As I listen to the news about Hurricane Irma, I'm reminded how I felt in the center of my own personal hurricane, cancer. The center of the storm is fairly calm. My calm came from my relationship with Christ. When the winds strengthened and the rains came, I held fast to the rock that never changes. 

The outer bands of the storm still sweep past me now and then, and often, when I least expect them. These bands contain emotional storms that build slowly and then explode with unbridled fury.

As my cancer hurricane has dissipated over the past year, I find myself doing fairly well in a continual state of recovery. I learning how to move forward and live a life full of rewarding opportunities. Some days are more challenging than others, but I keep plugging along. I find it helps to tell myself it's going to be okay and that I'm doing well.

Positive self talk is a wonderful self preservation technique and I'm finding as I practice it, I'm believing exactly what I'm telling myself. I'm surviving and not only that, I'm thriving! The storm is over and life goes on. And now I feel the winds of changing a blowin'. I wonder what God has in store for me. We'll have to wait and see.

   


Dolce Far Niente

The first time I heard the phrase, "Dolce far niente," was years ago when I watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love. I sat mesmerized ...