Too Many Battle Scars

by Debbie Twomey on October 21, 2017

Cellulitis scar

I have taken a long break from writing to focus on healing, or at least getting through my chemotherapy. The side effects have taken a physical toll on me which was only exacerbated by my other illnesses. And it has all been very discouraging to me. I miss the physical activity I used to enjoy so much. I feel as though my many battle scars are just hindering me in many ways and it can get overwhelmingly discouraging.

 I would read about other cancer patients, some with much stronger chemo than what I get who were working or out there doing physical activities that I can only dream of.  Yesterday I argued with myself that I could do more physically so I headed to the corner (all of 3 houses). How did I do? Let’s just say if I had had my phone with me I would have called a cab to get back home.

Trust me that I know and understand (and am reminded almost every time I see certain doctors who have to constantly say “You know you are a big girl”, that I am morbidly obese. I know this makes for yet another complication but as I have said ad nauseam, it is a Catch-22. I was big before getting this sick but I was very active. Then the RA worsened the walking diminished and the pounds increased. I was diagnosed with diabetes last year and it turned out that I needed to eat more often (wisely and watching the carbs and sugars of course) and try to increase whatever exercise I was doing at the time. It got so bad that all I could tolerate was water walking till I had a problem with getting to the pool. Now, due to all the complications, exercise is not tolerable. I only managed to lose 35 pounds due to the chemotherapy side effects.

I have such a hard time accepting some things, like the fact that I not only have cancer but heart and lung disease as well as Rheumatoid Arthritis with end stage degeneration in my hip. I keep thinking I can still get around better than I do, till I try. I will hear some pep talk or see something on Facebook that is so inspiring and tell myself I can do that too, but most of the time, I simply can’t.

I never ever thought this is what 62 would look like. 82 maybe and even then I saw myself dancing and going for those walks I liked so much (with my 70’s music blaring in my ear). I never dreamed I would need a scooter just to get groceries and if an establishment does not have a scooter, like the zoo or festivals, I have to avoid. This was not what I saw in my future.

Because I could not tolerate the full chemo, I am now only receiving Herceptin every 3 weeks. That is the good news. The bad news is I did not get the full treatment so a positive outcome is reduced. If you read everything on the Internet regarding chemo and any other cancer treatment you also start to wonder did I make the wrong choice here? Did I just make it that my body will now get cancer everywhere else because of the toxins of chemotherapy? Did I fall victim to Big Pharma and make myself sicker? Truthfully I am getting a bit tired of all of this, the not knowing what is best and all the arguments either way. What the hell do I have to look forward to when I begin my rounds of radiation?

 

Lung biopsy, lympth node removal and marking for radiation

I feel as though I am one giant SCAR. I have so many scars on the outside and then I have the ones on the inside. I have scars from knee surgery, 4 large scars from trying to have a baby and eventually having a total hysterectomy. I have childhood scars from the many times I got stitches because I was a very active tomboy. I have the scars from my lung and liver biopsies, the breast biopsy and eventually the lumpectomy to remove an 18mm mass and removal of lymph nodes. I have the many small and one large scar from the bouts of cellulitis and MRSA. And soon I will have a scar from either removal of gallstones or gall bladder.

My point is I am very physically scarred from these traumas and those are just the ones you can see. Right now the ones that hurt the most are the ones you cannot.  Last week I sat in the surgeon’s office waiting to be told I am too heavy for him to remove my gall bladder and that I would need a bariatric surgeon to perform the operation. My hospital does not even have the proper equipment for a morbidly obese patient like myself. So take that Debbie Twomey.

I sat alone just as I did waiting for my all my biopsy results because I know when it comes to crunch time, I really am alone and to depend on someone does not usually work out. And I have to admit there are times that is a heavier burden, feeling alone. Leaves a different kind of scar.

Fear leaves a scar too. I try not to focus on the worst case scenario but I am a realist and I need to know all the facts to make any major decisions, even if I make the wrong one. So I make my oncologist keep me updated on what could become more complicated because of my serious side effects. And getting gallstones is actually kind of minor right now compared to the outbreak of MRSA which is potentially worse.

My little trek down the street brought my own reality smack dab in my face—you have to accept the limitations and adapt and not compare my illness and recovery to anyone else’s journey. Yes, there are amazing people out there who can do miraculous feats even while dealing with cancer or chemo. Yes, there are those who still work, or go for walks or carry on as if nothing is different. There are even those who forego painkillers even when they are in agony so that they are lucid. But they are not me. They do not have my scars or my complications.            

I have one goal and that is to survive and get some quality back to my life so that I can spend more time with my precious granddaughters, and my family and friends. I don’t want those that know me saying goodbye just yet. I want to take my McKenna and Leah to the zoo and to festivals and so much more including Disney World if that is possible. So I am doing what I have to without overdoing it or making any more scars than I already have.  Who doesn’t have their share of scars and hope for better?   

 

Live, Laugh Love

Debbie

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Cancer’s Parables

by Debbie Twomey on August 29, 2017

 

I said when I started this journey that I would be as honest as I could, even if it meant some gory details. I don’t believe a warrior always puts on a happy face because that is just unrealistic and for others to truly understand just what this feels like, I think they need to see all sides.

It has been a very rough summer for me. The side effects have been severe constipation or diarrhea, outbreaks of yeast and MRSA infections and bone, bone tiredness to where functioning is a chore. But I manage to face each day and hope for a better tomorrow which I pray includes the cancer being gone. But because I had to remove one of the more aggressive drugs from my chemo and go to the lowest dose so my body could handle it, we are not sure of the end results. So, there is prayer.

Today I want to share some of the stories of those cancer warriors I have met on this journey. They too face challenges and pain and worry and come to chemotherapy, hopeful and often times, very upbeat.  Since I began in May, I know of two of these warriors who lost their battles. This cancer is a daunting foe so never think someone gives up or did not fight to the best of their ability if they succumb. It is not a level battleground, trust me.

There are my Facebook friends like Judy, Jeanne, and Kim who were all diagnosed with breast cancer and are at various stages in their treatment. And there is Emma, a motivational speaker who even after living a very healthy lifestyle and ate healthier than most people, is now in hospice with her breast cancer in Stage 4. She has been an inspiration to many prior to becoming ill and now, is so on whole new level.  She even managed to fly to her home country in the Philippines, for a week. despite the late stage and pain of her cancer. Words cannot express my admiration for this woman and all she has shared with us.

There is Kathy who always has a smile. She was doing chemotherapy to shrink her breast cancer before surgery; unfortunately she had complications, most notably extreme neuropathy so she is now going to have her mastectomy in a week. This is her second bout of cancer; she had ovarian to start with. She seems to understand what is expected and ready to face it.

There is Rosemarie, a new patient. She has the same type of breast cancer as I do and just started her rounds of the “red devil”. She is a very cheerful and loving Grandma who comes with her husband and is so friendly to everyone there. We have become good friends but I see the changes in her already. She shaved her head (her hubby did too) and now she sleeps through her chemo. I know that her taste buds are pretty bad as mine were and that she is often quite tired. But she always leaves the treatment room with a smile on her face.

There are a few men who are not as chatty; they sleep through most of their treatments so I do not bother them. A couple of other women are facing their protocol with strength and positivity but there are some days when fatigue or feeling crummy just make the treatment room a bit quiet. We respect each other’s feelings and if quiet is required, that is what is shared.

Last week I met the most amazing woman and I cannot stop thinking of her. Her name is Laura and she is 83 years old (almost the age my Mom would be had she lived). She was sitting in a chair saying the rosary. I told her she reminded me of my Grandma Ceil who said the rosary every single night. Whenever I stayed overnight I went to bed hearing her whisper the prayers. Laura was saying them for all those suffering with cancer but it is her story that really got to me.

She was there with her 52 year old son Dan. He is on his third round of esophageal cancer and was sleeping in the seat next to me. He is not doing well and cannot eat or hold down anything so he is going to get a J-tube inserted to take nourishment. He had been there since 8:30 for his chemo.

Laura just sat quietly saying her rosary and here it was now 2 pm. I started chatting with her and she had such a tale. Her daughter, who was my age, discovered a mass on her liver and though, initially she was told it was not cancerous, she died three months later from liver cancer. Laura’s husband also died within months, from cancer, So her son moved in to help her and he then was diagnosed. Now she has to drive him to all his appointments and keep track of vital information. This is such a burden on a woman who should be the one being cared for at this stage of her life.

I just could not imagine cancer’s destructive path in this family’s world. And here sat Laura, quite calm and seemingly at peace in prayer. I envied her the comfort she had from her faith but I was angered that such a decent person could be put through so much. We talked for about an hour and she left me with a promise to include me in her prayers and I gave the same promise to her.

My heart bursts with love and pain for all of these new friends who I only met because of this damned cancer. I pray daily for all of them and that they find peace and comfort, but most of all, healing.                    

Live Laugh Love

Debbie

 

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I Made it to the Couch Today

July 15, 2017

Tweet   I was hoping to be writing a positive or funny blog this week but just getting this one written has taken me 2 weeks. I was so excited to be off the “red devil” that I let go of the possibility that I could have other side effects that were just as bad […]

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The Nitty Gritty of Chemotherapy

June 27, 2017

Tweet                                                                               Boy I wish I could get off this roller coaster it is making me so […]

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It’s Just Hair

June 12, 2017

Tweet It’s only hair—you know who says this the most? Those people who are already losing it and have to accept, those who never liked their hair anyways and those who think bald is beautiful which may be mostly males.  I know many women in chemotherapy say this too because they know it is inevitable […]

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The Blessings of Cancer

May 22, 2017

Tweet My last few blogs seemed a bit discouraging so it probably seems hypocritical to say there have been many blessings with this cancer diagnosis, but that is the Catch-22 of this awful disease. I am not trying to garner pity but put a very realistic face to a disease that we had hoped would […]

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A Day in the Life

May 13, 2017

Tweet Once again the idea I had for this week’s blog will have to wait. It was about the blessings of a cancer diagnosis and yes, there are blessings you never knew. But this has been a rough week and I want to share the moments for one major reason; so when all of this […]

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Insurance Impediments!!!

May 5, 2017

Tweet What the hell— my insurance company has high jacked my chemotherapy treatment! I am so livid that I do not even know how to begin this blog. My gripe is regarding the insurance companies’ power. It is out of control. In the 1980’s I was part of a group who lobbied in Albany NY […]

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Fuzzy Cancer Brain

April 30, 2017

Tweet Anyone dealing with cancer of any form knows what I am about to write is so very true. We are bombarded with advice, well wishes (please do not take this as a negative because it is so welcome), information, tests, treatments and endless APPOINTMENTS. If we are fortunate we have partners that will help […]

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Cancer Speak

April 22, 2017

Tweet  I am learning a new language at this late age of my life. No it isn’t French or Spanish, it is Cancer Speak. This is a language and use of terminologies that I only knew at a surface level and to be perfectly honest, never wanted to know more. I was content to know […]

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