Keeping On Keeping On

There are things to work through after fighting cancer, things that blind-sided me. Finishing treatment was kind of like having a baby: I’d studied up on the pregnancy and birth process, knew what sort of pain to expect when, so it wasn’t too scary when my experience matched what I’d read. And I had all kinds of support, at the hospital and from my husband and staff at work (I was the director of a county public library system) especially. But when we came home with a baby, I was completely flummoxed: Now What? Overwhelmed by a new sense of personal vulnerability and responsibility, I experienced a flood of unexpected emotions, not all of them positive.

Coming out of a cancer fight fairly intact, I felt triumphant and grateful, but after a few months, I thought I should be getting over it a lot faster than I was getting over it. (And I also thought friends and family agreed, i.e. enough already.) but it’s a grief process, and it takes time. If you’re lucky, you have a companion who will listen to your story told repeatedly until you’ve healed. It’s not something most people are comfortable enduring.

Since I finished my treatments last April, I’ve been hit with sometimes crippling side-effects to three different medications, but I am finally able to walk my three miles again after quitting Arimidex two months ago, although I am still very stiff after any period longer than ten minutes of inactivity. I quit Prevacid, which promptly ended two weeks of depression and inexplicable weeping.

But once I got sucked into the “health care” system, I got tested for everything, so new stuff shows up: high cholesterol (doc wants me on a statin), osteoporsis (doc wants me on Fosamax)….I resist everything. From what I’ve been reading, none are good for breast cancer survivors. So this has become my anti-recurrence lifestyle: I eat a lot of oatmeal, cinnamon, flaxseed, fruits, vegies, and fish. I walk, lift free weights, get a weekly massage. I do my volunteer work, party, travel. I follow my heart. I have fun.

Which reminds me: I’ve been accepted as an artist in residence at an art community in Costa Rica. So if you can’t reach me at the usual addresses or numbers, email me at