Yes, Two Years! The last treatment of all treatments--two surgeries, 4 chemotherapy infusions, 30 radiation treatments. Diagnosed November 18, 2007, last treatment June 5, 2008. Recovery--still happening.
My hair came back thicker than it was; initially with a little wave on the ends, but that was cut off, and it's as straight as it ever was, and the same color of brown. The gray hairs are still there, but I think the additional hairs came in brown. I tried to let it grow longer, but the hot flashes make my head sooo hot, it had to be cut shorter again. It does seem to grow really fast. The hair on my arms and legs came back less dense, as did hair in other places.
Hot flashes--oh my gosh--hot flashes are still happening. Sometimes I think they are a little less often, and a bit less intense, and then Bam! I'm hit. I started out taking the Effexor for them, which helped initially, but I weaned off of that a few months ago, with no changes noted in the hot flashes. They might be just the least bit less often, and maybe just the least bit less intense.
Sleep. I wake frequently in the night, generally with a feeling of "expectation". And then a hot flash happens. Covers off, covers on. Doze off, wake up. Hot, cold, restless. Many nights, especially work nights, I probably get a total of maybe 3 hours. Mornings that I don't have to get up, I often sleep off and on until 9:30 or so.
Wounds--scars on the breast and axillary area have dimpled, probably with the accumulation of lymph fluid, as well as maybe having formed adhesions below them, onto the deeper layers of tissue. I still have numbness around the front part of the axillary incision, extending up into the armpit, and a little bit below the wound, too. The numbness is increased when there is lots of lymph fluid accumulated.
Lymphedema. Yep, got it. My wedding rings haven't fit since surgery. I've had many lymphedema treatments from a professional, but haven't been in several months due to scheduling conflicts, complicated with a difference in her belief of practice, even though the doctor wrote the prescription for once a month treatments, and the insurance company approved it. And I haven't found another therapist yet. My lymphedema is Stage 1, I think she said. There is always fluid in my arm, shoulder, and breast, which responds well to manual drainage treatments. I have found that doing yoga routines helps immensely, too, and have been managing myself that way, though Ike's therapy treatments are still the best. My massage therapist, Leah Hicks, is learning how to help me, too, but she's not "all that" yet in that department. I also have a compression garment--a bolero jacket type of thing that helps with the fluid that collects and pockets over my ribs on the side and around to the back, as well as the axilla (armpit) and shoulder. I have a compression sleeve, from wrist to armpit, and a gauntlet, which is a fingerless glove. If I'm feeling really "full", putting these items on helps comfort-wise. I'm not able to have them on for long periods of time--they are tight and uncomfortable and hot. With the hot flashes, the compression garments are a no-go.
Cognition, aka chemo brain--The first many months after chemo, I feel like I didn't have much in the way of short-term memory. Reading is sometimes difficult, in that I read but don't retain. And it seems to be an eye strain, especially with smaller print. Forgetfulness is something that happens. I have lists, and a planner, which I must refer to frequently. Most difficult is a busy day at work, with lots of timed events. I sometimes "get lost" on my own worksheet, especially if I'm tired or fatigued.
Stamina--definitely decreased. I'm learning to pace myself, to go slower and to take breaks. Discouraging that I can't do as much as I could, but I'm thankful that I can do what I can do.
Arimidex, an aromatase inhibitor. Been taking it for almost a year, after being on Tamoxifen for a year. Side effects are joint pain and hot flashes. Maybe insomnia. Joint pain is uncomfortable enough that it's fatiguing. Tylenol and motrin help a lot. I don't like having that in my system 100% of the time, so I don't take it all the time. The current treatment plan has me on the aromatase inhibitor for another 3 years, for a total of 5 years, including the tamoxifen.
Weight. I weigh more now than I have ever in my life, even being full-term pregnant. I'm at least 15 pounds heavier than 2 years ago.
Of course, the changes in cognition, decrease in energy, insomnia, joint pain, and weight gain can also be attributed to a decrease in estrogen. I have heard physicians say that "those things would have happened anyway as we age; we just speed it up and you notice it more".
I'm on six month follow ups with the oncologist, and will be for a few years yet, I think. The average time of recurrence in the same breast, or a new growth in the other breast, is 2-4 years. Another way of saying that I'm now in "the curve". I'll have a bone scan and CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis in a couple weeks. Those might be annually.
I think that sums up where I'm at two years post breast cancer treatment.
I am thankful I'm alive, and as well as I can be. God has been good to me, giving me wonderful health care personnel, friends, and family, who have each pulled me through this experience.
Thank you for reading. Hugs.