The call back 

On December 13 I had my first yearly mammogram after finishing my treatment. Of course I was scared, but after a week without word I started to assume that no news was good news. Unfortunately 10 days after the mammogram, I got a call from my oncologist. She told me that there had been “barely perceptible calcifications” and I had to go back so they could be looked at with magnification. 

She had warned me that often there would be callbacks, and she reminded me of it now and that probably it would be nothing, but I was still terrified. Particularly after doing some googling, because it seems that the smaller calcifications are, the more suspicious they are…so the words “barely perceptible” were not particularly encouraging. I also read that calcifications are common in the scar tissue, but these were at the complete other side of my breast. 

On December 27 I went back for the second mammogram, the radiologist was there to look at it and see if there were any more views that were needed, which their weren’t. I assumed I would hear back quickly since the radiologist had already seen it, but I didn’t hear back until today…a week later. 

I’m not going to lie, the last two weeks have been among the scariest of my life. One might think after going through diagnosis once, it wouldn’t be a scary to think about it again, but actually it was worse, for several reasons.

1. When I was first getting diagnosed, all I heard was how treatable breast cancer is. If breast cancer (indeed any cancer) comes back less than a year after treatment, then it’s a lot more aggressive and a lot less treatable-generally the sooner the recurrence the more aggressive the cancer (which I sadly learned  with the client that I lost in 2015). Especially considering that the cancer I had was very highly hormone responsive and I am on anti-hormonal meds. If he came back as quickly, then it was not what we thought. It was a different monster (hormonal receptors can change with chemotherapy, however it’s rare). 

2. Because the suspicious spot was in the same breast, I knew that if it was cancer, I would definitely be facing a mastectomy. There’s no way that I would be able to have another lumpectomy in the same breast with a cosmetic result I’d be happy with, nor would they be able to do radiation in the same best so soon after (in the past they would never radiate the same spot twice, now they might but only if it is years later). Of course lots of women have mastectomies and I can get through it, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. Especially considering I’ve already had radiation, which means that reonstruction can be more difficult and have less successsful results. 

3.  I haven’t built back up my sick time at work yet, from all the time I took off last year, and was very worried about how much time I would need off if I had a recurrence so soon. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to cope with working through treatment like I did last time. 

4. I couldn’t imagine telling my kids it was back so soon after going through it, how would we be able to remain positive through that? They’re old enough to know that that can’t be a good thing. 

5. Last time, while waiting for my diagnosis. I was in fighting mode. This time…I felt defeated. I already fought…and if it was already back, then for what? (I’m sure if it had come back I would’ve got them back into fighting mode, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me and there is still a lot that can be done, but that’s how I was feeling while I was waiting. Thoroughly defeated). 

Today, I finally got the call from my oncologists office, which is closed but they called me anyway. They said that the mammogram did not show anything worrisome, however I should come back for my next one in six months instead of a year, which is fine by me because I’d rather be checked out more anyway!

I can’t help but wonder if I made the wrong decision in having a lumpectomy instead of mastectomy (not that I was really given an option, I was told that the appropriate treatment for me was lumpectomy, but I guess I could’ve tried to fight for a mastectomy). At the time I was pleased to have a less invasive surgery. But now, I have to worry about mammograms, and I’m sure this won’t be the only time I go through the callback experience. (Perhaps it will be the scariest time, both because everything gets easier with experience…and because as time passes I assume that the thought of getting cancer again won’t seem quite so scary as now). 

In the end, I remind myself that I had the lumpectomy based on the information I had; I was told (by multiple specialists) and research backs up that my risk of recurrence and my prognosis are the same with the treatment I had as if I had a mastectomy. Also, in the BC groups I’m in, I hear all the time about women going through a similar  experience when they find lumps in their underarms, on their necks, on their chests. A mastectomy is no guarantee that cancer won’t come back or metastasize, and although often (yay!) these things turn out to be benign those that have mastectomies are certainly not free of the fear I went through over the last few weeks. 

Certainly I am very relieved right now, but more than that I’m just exhausted. Stress is tiring, and my only goal is to get to bed tonight as soon as possible! Then, I can get on with my life…because I’ve put a few things on hold over the last few weeks because I didn’t want to start things that I couldn’t finish. Of course my surgery is going to put things on hold for a little while, but not the way a recurrence would! 

Excited for dinner 

Because how awesome does this concoction I made in the slow cooker look?

One can diced tomatoes, one can black beans, one chopped up yam, one chopped up zucchini, one chopped up shallot, half cup frozen corn, 2 cups vegetable broth, I handful dry quinoa, 3 cups cooked rice and dashes of cinnamon, salt, turmeric, pepper, smoked paprika, hot sauce. Cooked on high for six hours!

On with it…a new year!!

I don’t think I really had any New Year’s resolutions for 2016, since I knew that I was starting chemotherapy on January 6

In spite of 2016 being a pretty rough year, I’ve definitely had some accomplishments I am proud of!

1. I completed an eight month contract at work, working right through chemotherapy, and loved it. I guess I did a good job because I got loads of positive feedback, and an excellent evaluation. 

2. I made it through cancer treatment with very little weight gain, and have already lost whatever I did gain in spite of being thrown into early menopause. For anyone new to my blog I know this seems weird, it seems like one would expect to lose weight during chemo, but a lot of women gain weight during breast cancer treatment due to the steroids, less activity, hormonal changes, stress, etc. I am very happy that I have managed to continue maintaining the weight I lost in 2010 (with some ups and downs, but nothing that has changed my clothing size which is how I measure successful maintenance!). 


3. Adam and I took our first ever vacation without the kids (since having them). I don’t know if that’s exactly my accomplishment but it’s something we’ve never done before, and I’m glad we did. 

As for 2017, I’ve got a couple high hopes for myself:

1. I want to get back to the level of strength and fitness I had before I got sick. I’m hoping to run Sporting Life 10K in May, probably won’t be at my normal because I’m having that surgery in early February, but I just want to do it. I’m hoping by the end of the fall to do a 5 or 10K at my usual time. I also want to get back to my usual yoga practice.

2. I want to get rid of all the clutter in my house, I think I have to hire one of those bins and throw out a bunch of stuff.

Vegan goodies for guests 

I love sharing delicious vegan food here because I hate that people think that we are suffering! I promise we are not, there is plenty of delicious food that does not come with the price of an animal being tortured or killed. I am no martyr though, I enjoy everything I eat!

Saturday night we had friends for dinner.  I served lasagna, corn salad, roasted vegetables, peanut stew with rice and quinoa, and latkes! 


Everybody ate happily, there were very few leftovers.

Not going to share all the recipes, I’m pretty sure I’ve already shared lasagna (it is pretty well them same as slow cooker, but baked) and peanut stew, and of course everybody knows how to roast vegetables. 

The corn was tossed in oiled cast-iron skillet until slightly charred, and then cooled and mixed with a dressing of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar, and a handful of dried cranberries. 

I will share the latke recipe though, because they are by far the best vegan latkes I have made! Everybody said that you could not tell that they were vegan or gluten-free, and I believe them because those suckers were gone and gone fast!

In the past I’ve tried using Chia seeds, applesauce, and powdered egg replacement in the place of eggs, none of it has worked very well;  particularly at holding the latkes together. 

This time I tried using cooked oatmeal, loosely following a recipe I found on the Internet. I was surprised at how well it held them together, and you couldn’t taste the oatmeal at all once they were cooked! I’m excited to make them again tomorrow to bring to my mother’s!

Ingredients

¾ cup quick-cooking oats 

6 medium-large potatoes, grated

1 medium onion, grated

½ cup gluten free flour 

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

vegetable oil for frying
Instructions

1. combine the oats or quinoa with 1½ cups very hot water. Stir and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.

2. Combine the grated potato, and onion, and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir in the oatmeal, then season with salt and pepper.

To fry: Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large, nonstick skillet or griddle. Drop enough potato batter to form 2½- to 3-inch pancakes. Fry on both sides over medium-high heat until golden brown and crisp. 

Adapted from this recipe, from vegkitchen.com

Pretty new pretty makers 

Physicians Formula Eye booster two-in-one boosting eyeliner and serum is supposed to make my eyelashes look and eventually grow thicker and stronger. I’m not sure if they’ve actually changed, but I love the eyeliner. The tip is not too firm (ouch) or too soft (messy), and makes a perfect smooth and quick drying line. It’s the first liquid eyeliner I’ve really enjoyed and used regularly.

Teeez desert metals mascara came to me as a prize, and I love it. My lashes look longer and full, well-defined, it dries quickly and lasts all day without smudging or flaking.

liner and mascara

The W7 Cheeky trio (from Amazon but I’ve seen it at Winners) is meant to be a blush, highlighter, and bronzer set. I do use the blush and love it; a nice peachy pink that isn’t too shimmery. But my favourite thing about this set is how great it is for natural every day eyes! I use the highlighter all over, the bronzer in the crease, and the blush lightly from the inside corner across the lid. The colours are well pigmented and find easily, and this makes a perfect neutral every day eyeshadow! Here is a picture with this product used on my eyes, as well as the blush on my cheeks:

I’m naked!