I have been meaning to post something for the last couple weeks, but always find other things that take priority. But I put you on my TO-DO list and am writing today. I’ve had the title for this post sitting there on my desktop waiting for me to write. Life is normal… pretty much. I’m working, I’m playing my horn, I’m back on the road some days, I’m going to boot camp. … and I’m not fatigued. I feel really good. In fact, I feel really really good.

I probably feel about the same as I did a year ago, before all this cancer stuff started… but I revel in how good I feel. I have a deeper appreciation of feeling good. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that food tastes REALLY good. Not that it actually tastes better than it did a year ago, but again, I have a deeper appreciation for flavor! When I take my first bite (or first sip) there’s an Ahhhh or a Yummm that accompanies it.

Food: I’ve been diligent about keeping down the fat grams each day, and upping the veg/fruit intake. I make my own breakfast and lunch… so go super low-fat then. And Kevin makes supper any ol’ way he feels like, but including a veg. So a typical day might be this: Breakfast – Frosted Mini Wheats with blueberries and nonfat milk. Morning snack – an apple. Lunch – tuna mixed with mustard, relish, and low-fat sour cream, on a whole lot of spinach (and sometimes some black beans added). Afternoon snack – an assortment of veggie sticks (carrots, zucchini, bell pepper) and a tablespoon of hummus for dip. Supper? Well that can really vary… sometimes it’s pizza and salad, sometimes it’s homemade burgers (now with homegrown tomatoes!), last night it was grilled chicken breasts, corn on the cob, and biscuits. So supper isn’t exactly low-fat, but it isn’t over the top either. If any of you have a recipe for granola that has less than 2g fat per serving, I’d love to have it… I really like granola.

Exercise: I’m back to boot camp 3 mornings a week (if I’m in town). I love the camradarie, and the chance to push myself. I may not be excited about getting out of bed at 4:50am, but I’m so glad I did AFTER boot camp! One thing is slowing me down here….

This was taken on my first day back to boot camp in June.
(Taken BEFORE I had to stop using weights)

Health: I was having this pain, MINOR pain, more like a weird tightness, in my right arm when I stretched up to reach something. Really minor, but I thought it might be that I needed a little physical therapy to stretch out a tendon or something. So I went to my doctor a few weeks ago – and HE called my oncologist because he was worried that it might be lymphedema. (lymphedema, is a build up of lymph fluid trying to work it’s way out of the arm, but being slowed down by fewer lymph nodes [my lymphectomy removed 5] moving lymph along). Even though my arm does not appear edematous (swollen), he thought perhaps there is some swelling inside my arm that is causing this pain. He and my oncologist thought I should ease back on the weight-bearing stuff at boot camp (sad face)… so no bicep curls, no pushups, etc. Since I still get this (minor) pain I now have an upcoming appointment with a lymphedema therapist. I’m hoping she will be able to determine if it really is caused by lymphedema and, if so, work with me on what I can do to get back to at least some weightbearing right-arm exercise. That’s my sorry story of why I’m not fully working out at boot camp.

Other Health… I still have some peripheral neuropathy, numbness/tingling, in the soles of my feet, toes, and fingertips. It doesn’t prevent me from doing anything, but I think my balance isn’t as good as it was because of this. Yesterday at boot camp we were doing a side-shuffle, and the friction of my sock against my foot was the most bizarre sensation… It was almost a tickle… enough weirdness that I chose to stop doing the side-shuffle and just jog instead. And how’s the chemo-brain? Yes, it is still with me a bit… but it seems to be getting better. Mostly I just lose words and names when I’m trying to talk… I know, I know, I am getting older and this is a natural thing – but I am happy to blame it on chemo-brain, especially since it seems better than a few months ago.

Hair: I KNOW you all want to know what’s going on with my hair! somehow hair seems to be what a lot of folks focus on. Perhaps it’s easier and more light-hearted to talk about hair than other physical effects of the chemo. Or perhaps it’s the most obvious chemo effect. But to me, the hair is a fairly minor thing. My hair is coming back EVERYWHERE… eyebrows are good, eyelashes are good, hairy legs, armpit hair and, unfortunately, chin whiskers! I didn’t appreciate NOT having chin whiskers until they started to come back!

The hair on my head is coming back, gradually, as a baby-fine mixture of dark and white hair with absolutely no curl. I have actually had one “haircut” (neck shave and tidy it up over the ears) already, but as you can see it’s quite short, and still needs to fill in some spots. It is what it is, and I don’t bother with a hat or bandana anymore, unless I’ll be out in the sun for more than a minute.

Mental health: I think I’m okay. I certainly have been feeling a lot of joy for everyday life. There is always that niggling worry at the back of my brain… what if it comes back? that’s only natural. And there is that heightened worry about minor things (calf ache, softer poops, etc.) that can be explained logically (boot camp, increased veg/fruit intake, etc.). But that kind of worry happens with any type of close call. I remember when I had a flat tire back in ’85… I had to pull over a number of times after that incident to check my tires because it felt like maybe the car was pulling to the right, or it felt like maybe the ride was a little wobbly. Anyway… I’m doing what I can to prevent a recurrence, and keeping a close watch for anything out of the ordinary… that’s the best I can do. Thank you, ALL of you, for the support, encouragement, and humor that you shared with me throughout these past months. You helped make the steps of this journey lighter.

Author: jbarnescm

Just a regular person, diagnosed with breast cancer 10/2018, making the best of things, and keeping my peeps up to date

3 thoughts on “Normal”

  1. So glad your life is NORMAL as it can be. I never read the book, but I never forgot the title “Normal is just a setting on a clothes dryer”. Can’t say I don’t yearn for normal (what I expected) myself in the version of life that God gave me. But I do celebrate with you that God makes a way and gave us fabulous hubby’s!


  2. Thank you for the reminding us to appreciate the normal we are in and to value every day, view, life, friendships, health, tastes, memories we have today.


  3. You rocked this Janet. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for the update and you will continue to be in our prayers.


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