Sunday, September 15, 2013

MOVING ON AFTER CANCER: MELANIE (FIRST IN A SERIES)

Many positives come out of cancer, and I admit I don't always write about them. But today I'm going to. The biggest ones involve the many new friends I've made since my December 2010 breast cancer diagnosis. I often refer to these friends as  The Rubies, and I'm fortunate to have several sets of such wonderful gems. 

Long before I was on Twitter, and about four months before I started this little blog...
I acquired my first set of rubies — at breastcancer.org (BCO). Diagnosed within weeks of each another, we were drawn to BCO looking for answers to our many post-cancer, pre-surgery questions. Over a period of months, what began as a large group of ladies popping in and out of conversations slowly simmered into seven women who were becoming fast friends. At the time (January 2011), we ranged in age from 26 to 52. None of us lived near each other, but we "talked" every day online. These ladies became my lifeline. They knew exactly what I was going through, because they were going through it too. 

One day in July 2011 we took our relationship to the next level: We started a closed Facebook group. But there was one hitch: We didn't know what anyone looked like aside from the tiny Avatar we used to represent ourselves on BCO. I knew many details about them, and felt connected by our common cancer experience, but I was not expecting the tsunami of emotions that hit me when I viewed their Facebook pages.

Imagine the scenario: I click from photo to photo, profile to profile, wall to wall, and watch the worlds of these seven women take dimensional form. I find myself drawn to images taken prior to their diagnosis dates. (It's like the car crash I can't turn away from.) I want to see the innocence in their smiles before The Big C changed their lives forever. I carefully study their faces, their children, their husbands, fathers, mothers, friends. I analyze each expression. For I know now what they didn't know then. And this makes me cry. Like, flash-flood kinda cry. I was sad for them, I was sad for me, I was sad for all we had lost.
Melanie after running her first marathon in 2010.


I was particularly moved by the images I saw of our youngest group member, MELANIEShe got breast cancer at a time in her life that should have been breezy and carefree. But life doesn't work like that. Cancer doesn't work like that. Melanie recently shared with our group a disconcerting experience she had, and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to write about. Then it hit me: Why not ask Melanie if she'd be my very first guest blogger? I'm happy to report, she agreed! And she did an awesome job. Please send her some bloggy love in the comments section below if you relate to her story.

Because I feel photographs express a person's personality and add dimension to a story, I'm including a bunch of pictures of Melanie (with her permission, of course) to illustrate the fullness of one young woman's life touched by cancer. So without further ado, I present to you Melanie's story, in her own words.

"Hi! My name is Melanie and I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 26, almost three years ago. 
Melanie (in maroon sweater), pre-cancer diagnosis.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was a very busy girl. I had a full time job as a nurse abstractor, traveling to various doctor’s offices in my area for a government-funded court investigation. I volunteered as a coach for a local school's cross-country team. I completed my first marathon. I had many church activities that kept me going all hours of the day. I also had recently moved back in with my parents after going away to college and living on my own for a few years. In my mind, this was a temporary stop before the next big adventure in my life.

That temporary stop has now become somewhat permanent thanks to the "C" word. I always imagined that the longest I would stay at my folks' place would be two years, but due to financial circumstances (which include proximity to the cancer center, along with the wonderful support I have from my parents), I’ve stayed put for now.

In December 2010, I learned I had invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage IIA, grade 3, with one involved lymph node. (I am ER+/PR+ and HER2-.) Once I was diagnosed, things moved pretty quickly. My oncologist told me to give him eight months to get through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and I could get back to my normal life. Eight months didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. I just wanted to live! So we moved forward with surgery three weeks after diagnosis. After much deliberation and praying, I decided to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, which my surgeon said she would prefer. The deal breaker for me was whether or not I got to keep my nipple. She told me no. So I chose the lumpectomy. I couldn’t imagine losing my breast at the age of 26; my oncologist supported my decision.

Five days after Christmas 2010, I had a partial mastectomy with an axillary node dissection and a PORT placed for the chemo I would later be receiving. My doctors would not give me the option to remove just the one cancerous lymph node because I had what is called extra-capsular extension (where cancer has spread outside the wall of the lymph node). And since my tumor's pathology was a grade 3, which my doctors said was pretty aggressive, they ended up taking out a total of seven lymph nodes.

Melanie with her pain pump.
My surgery took a couple of hours and although I was only scheduled to stay overnight, I ended up staying four nights due to uncontrollable pain and dizziness. I had the luxury of having my surgery at the same hospital where I held my first job as a nurse outside of college. My surgeon even gave me the option to be placed on the floor where I used to work. I said YES because I still knew people there and felt most comfortable there. It turned out not to be such a great experience. I could tell that my nurse was new because my IV was no longer in the vein. She continued to push morphine through it every two hours because I was in excruciating pain and I kept (literally!) screaming at her that I needed a new IV! 

Finally, after five hours, they sent the charge nurse in and he placed a new IV in my arm. The morphine still wasn’t really helping, and all I could dream about was some ibuprofen. I knew it would help, but no one would listen to me. My best advice: Never have surgery between Christmas and New Year’s in a teaching hospital. It is impossible to get a physician to your bedside. I kept telling my nurse that she could page the on-call doctor and he could come talk to me. I cried and pleaded … and about 12 hours later, he came and I finally got what I needed. From then on, recovery wasn’t too bad. My mom (who is also a nurse) removed my drain, and she was nice and gentle!!

After four weeks of recovery, I started chemotherapy. I wasn’t too excited for it, but I usually have a determined attitude about anything I do in life, so I knew I could do it. I wasn’t even really upset about losing my hair because everyone told me it would grow back and maybe I'd get those curls I’d always dreamed about.
Feb. 2011: Mel in a Mohawk.

I had six cycles of Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxotere. I pretty much had every side effect under the sun. Extreme nausea was the worst. It always hit immediately, and we tried everything (and I mean everything!) to get it under control. My doctor finally talked to the pharmacist and he suggested a psych drug — and it worked! I didn’t really like it, though, because it would knock me out for 12 hours at a time. I tried to take as little as possible. 

About three months after my surgery, I developed cording in my armpit and pain that radiated down my arm. I was worried that it was lymphedema so I scheduled a visit with a lymphedema therapist. She wasn’t concerned and preceded to do physical therapy to loosen the cording. And BAM! One week later, I had swelling in my right (dominant) forearm and hand. Since that time, it has been an ongoing battle to keep my lymphedema under control. I have gone to therapy for months off and on over the past two years due to flare-ups.

After chemotherapy, I then had to start radiation. My doctor told me that even if I had had a mastectomy, I probably still would have needed radiation in my armpit because of the extra-capsular extension. I had daily radiation for seven weeks throughout the summer of 2011.

I thought radiation was going to be a breeze after my horrible chemotherapy experience, but I found it much more tiring. Since I lived so far away, I chose to move closer to the hospital for those seven weeks of radiation, and because I worked from home I was able to take my work with me. I also scheduled my appointments super early in the morning, so I wouldn’t sleep the whole day away. As it was, I would drag myself out of bed really early and end up sleeping most afternoons. Radiation was painful and exhausting and something I never want to experience again. 

Mel (left) ran a 10K after
Chemo #3 with her cousin Sara. (Notice
the compression sleeve on Mel's right arm.)
Two years later, I still have pain in my breast, armpit, clavicle and upper back from the daily radiation treatments. I wasn’t disheartened too much, though. 
I kept telling myself that this battle was only temporary, and that life would get back to normal once it was all over and it would be worth it to be alive.

Fast-forward to today — nearly three years after diagnosis —and things don’t feel quite so temporary anymore. I have a multitude of lingering side effects that make it hard to see the promised "temporariness" of the cancer treatments. I’m currently halfway through the five-year protocol of Tamoxifen, and it’s anything but a walk in the park. I continue to have pain from radiation and swelling from lymphedema. I also have hot flashes, fatigue, migraines, thin hair, thyroid problems, weight gain and still no menstrual period. Through all of this, though, my oncologist had a way of comforting me — and I always left his appointments with a more positive outlook. He always had a hug for me, and I knew he did for other patients, too, as was evident by the makeup smeared on his doctor’s coat collar. He had a way with connecting to his patients. He listened. He valued how I felt.
Four down, only two more chemo rounds to go!
Recently, I got a phone call from my oncologist saying he was moving to a new hospital but I would love the new doctor that was his replacement. I wasn’t sure that would be possible seeing as how I absolutely loved him — but I was willing to give this new doctor a shot.

I fully expected my first appointment to be like any other follow-up appointment. Lab work … waiting … seeing the Physician's Assistant … waiting … seeing the doctor … the typical schedule. Instead, I found myself bawling my eyes out the whole way home. (It’s an hour and a half trip, so that’s a lot of crying.)

I hate to cry. I feel ugly when I cry, and pitiful. I especially don’t like to cry in front of other people. I mean … what can they really do except give you some pity? Ugh! I hate pity. So I have never cried at the doctor’s office … ever … until this last appointment.

I wasn’t crying because the cancer had come back. No, I found myself crying over my thin hair. I keep holding onto hope that it will start to grow back, but the further I am from treatment, the harder it gets. All it took at this last visit was one sympathetic look from the Physician's Assistant (who is gorgeous, by the way) and I was crying a puddle onto the floor. I really miss my hair and the more time that passes, the more I miss it. I was fine with losing it. (I even shaved it into a Mohawk for fun before it fell out from chemo; see the photo above.) But I am devastated every time I see a picture of the back of my head and all I can see is my scalp.

I usually wear my hair two ways now to try and cover it up. It’s so hard because I loved fixing my hair! I braided it, crimped it, curled it, wore it up, wore it down, cut bangs, cut it really short, let it grow long, wore it half back, to the side, cornrows, or any other way I could come up with. I used to see how many days I could go without fixing it the same way. I’m envious of new hairstyles that I see on Pinterest. I want to try them! I evaluate other women’s hair and think of all the things I could do if I had their hair.
Feb. 2012: Melanie on a church trip to Hawaii.

I guess the emotional dam finally broke at my doctor's appointment; I was no longer able to be nonchalant about my thinning hair. I have never cried in front of the Physician's Assistant before, and she was very sympathetic, giving me advice, asking if I had tried wearing a wig, etc. 

But that was only making it worse. Every time I go to a medical appointment, they ask about my symptoms and side effects. And I go through the usual list that I’ve had for two years now (thin hair, weight gain, hot flashes, fatigue, lack of period, migraines, lymphedema, pain). So when I started crying, I surprised even myself, because I had been through all this before. For so long I’ve tried to just hold my feelings in because I know deep down that there is nothing they can do and it angers and annoys me. I’m not mad at any one person per se. I’m just disappointed because it seems that no one can truly understand how all this makes me feel.

By the time I met the new oncologist, though, I regained my composure from the crying jag and was a little eager to meet him. Despite all the turmoil within me, I still enjoy getting out and meeting new people. But things were immediately different this time around. Instead of a hug, I got a handshake. And the first thing he said was that my previous doctor had filled him in on my history and that "we didn’t need to rehash it all." I was a little relieved but also disappointed that he didn’t want to know anything from my perspective. Then he looked me straight in the eyes and told me (and I quote), “You just need to put the past in the past and move forward with your life. Let us worry about the cancer and tests and treatments.”

I sat there, stunned. I wasn’t sure why he even said that. Maybe the Physician's Assistant had said something to him? I don’t think he could tell I had been crying, so we didn’t even discuss it. I replied that I wasn’t worried about the cancer coming back. He said that was good.

From then on, though, the appointment was a blur. I was trying not to cry again because I felt like even if he noticed I was crying, he wouldn't really care to find out why. He proceeded to ask about my job (which I had lost three days prior to this appointment) and then we discussed my follow-up schedule. Throughout the rest of the appointment, he repeated that I needed to "move on" about four times. He said it would be good for me to get a job because it would help me to get out and socialize again. He never even asked about my social life! At that point, I shut down. I didn’t really want to talk to him anymore so I just nodded my head, trying to make it all end. When someone treats me that way, I don’t trust them with my thoughts or emotions. So I didn’t feel the need to explain any of my life choices to him.

Needless to say, I left that appointment feeling very defeated. I missed my old oncologist because he always made me feel better. He was reassuring and kind and sensitive to my feelings. This new oncologist made me feel like a complete loser. Like I wasn’t being successful as a survivor.

So what does it mean to move on? I kept pondering that question amidst my tears on the drive home. Since my diagnosis, I feel like I move on everyday. I have been on 29 flights: twice to Hawaii for mission trips, once to Mexico, multiple times to the Midwest for work, once to New York City right after hurricane Sandy, and once to Florida.  I’ve also gotten back into competing in run road races like I did before cancer. A few months prior to my diagnosis, I ran my first marathon — and I don’t want it to be my last. I travel to see family in other states because I value those relationships. I am really close to my aunts, uncles and cousins, and I feel so much joy when I’m around them. I continue to volunteer and coach middle school and high school cross-country teams. And I’ve picked up a new hobby: cake decorating. I've even taken several cake classes. How is all of that not considered moving on?

Am I not even allowed to be upset over what cancer did to me? I try not to let any of it hold me back, but I spend at least 20 hours each week taking care of my lymphatic system: I do daily manual lymph drainage massage, wash the compression sleeve I must wear every day, and I wrap my arm each night. There are so many things I must avoid on a daily basis to control my swelling, such as salt, mosquitoes, paper cuts, picking up small children, weight lifting, hot showers, hot weather, too much house cleaning, all animals, long sleeves, and tight clothes. I have to strategically fit in exercise because I must do lymph drainage massage before I work out and wait at least an hour afterwards before removing my compression sleeve. In addition, I still go to physical therapy and spend money on the custom sleeves, bras and bandages I replace every six months.

I no longer feel beautiful when I look in the mirror. I spend so much time trying to cover my scalp that it makes me just want to shave my hair completely off. I have to draw on eyebrows every day because mine never fully grew back. I have some sort of medical or therapy appointment every month, and continue to take Tamoxifen on a daily basis. How do you move past something that is a constant and hard reality?

I thought I was doing well. Like I said, I try not to let anything hold me back. I find a new way to do something or make adjustments if it’s possible. I’ve become very adept at using my non-dominant arm! Even after all I’ve been through I honestly can’t remember being filled with this much joy in my entire life. My faith in God is deeper; my relationships with friends and family are much stronger. The worse things are or may seem in my life, the more hope I have for the miraculous to occur. And why shouldn’t I have that hope? I’m 29 years old and I have a long life to live. I still fully expect to get married, have kids, and to make a difference in this world. I have new dreams of baking and creating things for a living that will bring joy to others, and leaving behind the nursing career I thought that I wanted. Post cancer, I’ve realized life is short and it’s important not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
April 2013: Melanie with her parents in Charlottesville, VA.

Needless to say, my first appointment with my new oncologist did not go so well. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to him. Moving on, for me, means moving on to something better. And if seeing this new doctor is going to cause such an upheaval in my emotions, than I don’t see this as better. I need someone that is going to be understanding, supportive and compassionate in every stage of my survivorship. Because it’s not just enough for me to survive; I fully expect to thrive. And I need people around me who expect the same thing.  

In the Bible, there is a story about a man named Job. God allows Satan to test this man by destroying everything in his life. All of Job's children and thousands of farm animals and slaves die, and Job's health is completely destroyed. Job loses everything and yet in all of this, he doesn’t curse God, even though his wife urges him to and his friends even suggest that his strife is due to some sin he committed. After a few years, God finds Job faithful and restores everything to him, giving him twice as much as he had lost.

I feel similar to Job. In a way I feel as if I’ve lost a lot these past three years. My health, stamina, and financial security have all been stripped away. And in this moment, I can choose to follow well-meant advice from people like my new oncologist who tell me to accept what is while trying to ignore my struggle and sorrow within. I can choose to carry that with me the rest of my life and let it rob me of all hope and joy. Or, I can choose to have more faith in a God that says nothing shall be impossible and live expecting to receive twice as much as what I have lost.

When I remind myself of Job's story and the hope that I have for complete restoration, I don’t care that my life doesn’t look how others expect it to. I remind myself that I’m unique and that there will never be anyone else like me, and it’s my responsibility to grow into the strong and courageous person God created me to be. It’s obvious from what I shared above that I grow weary, but most days, my faith is much stronger than my sorrow.

I wish my new doctor had taken more than five minutes to get to know the real me. The me that flies six time zones away to serve others in spite of how miserable I am with side effects from cancer treatments. The me that coaches 50 children every day into believing that hard work, teamwork, and dedication will get you far in this life. The me that was excited to meet a new oncologist because I know how important and special a doctor can be in a person’s life. He’s my coach. He’s the one cheering me on from the sidelines when I step up to the line. I wish all doctors looked deeper to see how courageous the individuals they treat are. And I wish all doctors took the time to consider the impact their words have on their patients. We’re not statistics, we’re human beings — and in my opinion, strong ones at that!
Melanie (at right) with her local high school's cross country team.

So, though my doctor's comments caused me a temporary moment of uncertainty, I KNOW that I am moving on. I know this because I have thousands of pictures that prove it.

I’m interested to hear if anyone reading this has encountered a similar situation? Has anyone told you that you need to move on and if so, how did it make you feel? Have you realized anything new about yourself from the statements made by others in your life?

PS Thanks so much to Renn for letting me share!"

31 comments:

  1. This is powerful, unbelievable in what Melanie has to and has had to deal with... Some roads are much harder than others. I think it is amazing how strong and persistent you are Melanie in how you never give up... you are inspirational...

    When someone reads my story, they tell me they cannot believe what I have had to deal with, I tell them all, we all have our stories, what is hard for them, might not be hard for me and what is hard for me may not be hard for them... We each have our own paths to follow...

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    1. thanks for reading and your kind words!

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  2. So BRILLIANT! Bravo Melanie!!! I'm proud to know you!

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    1. At first I couldn't figure out who you were...and how you knew me...lol. I'm a ditz sometimes. =) And thank you!

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  3. Sweet Melanie - you are such a young woman to have had to deal with SO much! I am 'wowed' by your strength and fortitude, by your grace and good humor and most of all by your courage! Of course you are moving on...and you are already making a difference in the world. I share some of your story - my hair is horrible, totally thin and wispy. I am so self conscious about it. People ask me if I am sick, strangers approach with advice about this product or supplement and I cry (later and alone). I have NO eyebrows, but I recently had them tattooed by a medical tattoo artist from New Mexico who is wonderful. I am proud of you! You are amazing. BRAVA young lady!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I'm sorry to hear that you're dealing with the same issues. It totally stinks and was very unexpected. I've thought about the tattoo's but even after all this, I still hate needles...was it bad?

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  4. thanks Renn for sharing Melanie's story.....Melanie i dont know you but i adore you....xoxo m

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  5. Melanie, I may be at the other end of the age spectrum (69), but I too have no eyebrows and little hair. It isn't just thin but very different textures on different parts of my head. It`s flat in front and wild on the sides. I am going to have my eyebrows tattooed on! Please seek a kinder physician.
    Meg

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    1. I'm positive that it's difficult at any age and to face something that is so unexpected. I thought about tattoo's. I'm just not 100% sure yet so for now, I carry my eye brow pencil everywhere!!

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  6. Thank you so much, Melanie and to answer your question..

    Oh yeah!

    U guess I'm not doing this survivor thing right either. My oncologist (who I adore BTW) keeps telling me to get a full-time job. My husband ditto. My mother ditto.

    Everyone wants to know when I'm going to let the cancer go. It is apparently the sign of a unhealthy obsession to still be talking about the symptoms even if THEY ARE STILL THERE. I went home for the summer (I live in France and was visiting the US) and I almost lost it. I wasn't supposed to talk about anything that was cancer-related. Not the fatigue or the pain in my bones or how really shitty the tamoxifen makes me feel. Someone I love very very much told me "The cancer is gone. It isn't coming back. You aren't going to die. Let it go."

    And then I went to visit a friend who is also a breast cancer survivor and before I opened my mouth she told me how worried she was about me because from what she could see my friends and family were managing their own anxiety and fear by making it impossible for me to express mine. That's not cool, she said.

    And for the rest of the trip I was fine. Just took one person to listen and to validate what I was feeling to make it better.

    If you ever end up in Versailles, Melanie, come see me and I'll show you the town (a lot more here then just that ugly castle :-)

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    1. I'm so lucky to have a best friend that has taught me the meaning of validating other's feelings. She has taught ME a lot through this whole process by being open and honest every step of the way.

      It's hard when the people closest to us don't understand (like your dr, husband, and mother). I hope to one day be working full time again. But I feel like it will have to be something I absolutely love in order to do it. If there is one thing I've learned, it's to not waste time on things that don't matter or that don't enrich my life.

      And thank you for the invitation to visit!! I visited Europe in college but not France. I would love to go to France one day. I'm sure it would be a blast!

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  7. dear Melanie,

    your story - amazing, heart wrenching, honest, inspiring! I am so honored to meet you, and so grateful to Renn for inviting you to be her very first guest blogger. your writing is eloquent and very compelling, and so much of it resonates with BC issues that need to be understood and supported. the aftermath of treatment, to say nothing of the mofo treatment itself, carries with it so many elements of grief; the loss of who we once were, the parts of us that are gone and/or will never be the same. a physician who believes that "moving on" is the thing to do must have given such a blow to you with such insensitive and inane advice. I felt my heart sink when I read that part of your story - and that it was your first encounter with a NEW doctor. OY! what a confluence of horrible feelings you must have had.

    but in spite of all that you have been through, you have risen like a phoenix from the ashes, and soared with such grace and elegance and determination. and I believe that the best is yet to come for you. your heart is exquisitely receptive to gratitude, to love, and to the support of all who love you - and that is HUGE. I am sending you tons of warm hugs, lots of encouragement to keep on writing and sharing your story, and beams of the light of hope for all you are wishing for. you deserve only the best of all life has to offer!

    love, XOXO

    Karen, TC

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    1. Thank you so much! I treasure your words and appreciate the time you took to write them. =)

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  8. Melanie, I'm so sorry for all you've been through and continue to go through. It's not so different from anything I've experienced, but my heart goes out to you especially because of your young age. I hope so many good things are restored in your life. You have a beautiful smile. The inner You shines despite all the hardships. Thanks so much for sharing.

    And Renn, thanks for making room for Melanie's story. I, too, was in a support group on breastcancer.org. Our group didn't end up on facebook together and drifted away after chemo finished, but at the time, I found the resource to be invaluable. A lifeline!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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  9. Hi Melanie - you are a strong woman! Find a new doctor with whom you are comfortable with and you respect. I was diagnosed at the same time as you... I know some around me think I should have moved completely on by now - like I had a breakup or divorce. I only wish it was! The arm stuff is a bear and you'll find a way around the hair stuff too.

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  10. Melanie your story moved me. I too hate when people tell me to move on. I am still living this nightmare and somedays I just want to scream. Keep writting you are funny.

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    1. Thank you for reading! I feel like screaming sometimes too!

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  11. OMG Melanie, I can so relate. It takes ONE insensitive person, mixed my with hormones, insomnia, depression or whatever to wreck things. I hope you found an oncologist you are happy with, and thanks, Renn for sharing this story.

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    1. Thanks!! I haven't gone Oncologist shopping yet...but we'll see. =)

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  12. Hi Melanie! Your story (life) is beautiful because you make it so. I am impressed with your wisdom and strength. I've been feeling sorry for myself lately and you've given me a new perspective. After my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment was behind me my oncologist said, "you have to learn to live without focusing or fearing cancer." A month later I was diagnosed with advanced rectal cancer. Dr.'s think I had it even before my breast cancer. I forgave my Oncologist, after I called him on it and he said he was sorry. I'm trying to get on with my life but I know there are a whole new collection of side effects waiting for me. and pain. I hate pain the most of all.

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    1. Thank you so So much for reading and taking time to comment! I've actually read your blog and have been following your progress and will continue to do so. I'm cheering for you and praying for a complete recovery with no pain!! From one baton twirler to another. =)

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  13. I am outraged by your jerk of an oncologist. How dare he treat cancer patients if he can't see the people behind the file on his desk. I am not sure that anyone but other people who have walked this road understand that one never completely moves on - especially when there are a multitude of daily reminders. If we could truly move on, it would mean no more check-ups to make sure the cancer isn't back!! As long as those tests are necessary, it is pretty hard to forget about the cancer.
    And as you have pointed out, you have continued to do so many things to regain control of your life and to enjoy it. This is a testament to your courage. I hope you find a new oncologist who "gets" how hard it is to live with the many ongoing gifts of breast cancer - especially for such a young woman.

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    1. Thank you! It IS hard to forget when all those appointments loom on the horizon.

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  14. Hi Melanie and Renn too,

    First of all, I'd like to give you a big hug, Melanie. I'm sorry about all the cancer and cancer fallout that you've had to deal with. I sooo relate to the hair thinning thing. I miss my old hair. It used to be one of my better features. I miss my eyelashes. And I miss my breasts! Moving on means different things to different people I suppose. You are moving on every single day. So am I. But forget? That's just not possible is it? Your new oncologist is really disappointing. Gosh, what's up with him? Of course he should be your coach and cheerleader. I'm actually onto oncologist #5 though, so... I hope you can find one that is better suited for you if at all possible. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You already are making a huge difference in the world by doing just that - sharing. Sending you my best wishes.

    Thanks to you, Renn, for sharing Melanie's story here on your fabulous blog.

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    1. Thanks for reading. I read your piece about feeling grateful to be alive and I felt like I could relate so well!

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  15. Oh, Melanie, the first thing I want to say is that you have a wonderful friend in Renn. There are so many things I can relate to about your story, except for one thing, which is that I did not have to go through them at the age of 26. I was just over twice your age going through them, and though I hope I have a lot of life left to live, I'd at least gotten to live my youth and my prime without cancer. It always especially breaks my heart when someone so young has to endure all this. I remember a certain check-up with my breast surgeon, after I'd been suffering with body-slamming fatigue for months, with no one offering any help or explaining why it was happening. I did some research of my own before the visit. When I got there, and she asked me how I was doing, I told her, honestly. She barely let me describe my symptoms for a few minutes before interrupting me, and saying with great impatience, "Well, what do you want ME to do about it?" I was devastated. How about acting like a doctor & doing your job, I thought. I left the office in tears. Fortunately, I found a clinical trial testing a new medication for fatigue after breast & prostate cancer treatment. The doctors that ran the study were amazingly supportive, and after the study, one of them worked with my primary care doc to come up with a treatment plan that helped enormously. Honestly, my cancer docs were mostly useless. I am very fortunate that at least my PCP cared enough to help me.

    I'm so glad you, like me, found support and enduring friends on BCO. Without my friends there, I think I would have lost my sanity while I was going through treatment. And I have stayed in touch with so many of them. And I continue to be thankful for them every day. When I started my own blog, I found even more incredible, articulate women. So, I welcome you to our amazing blogosphere. And I hope the beast never comes back. Lopsided hugs to you. Kathi

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    1. Thank you so much! I feel like I was promised that everything would be ok and now that it's not, they (the dr's) don't care! It's heartbreaking. I wish I was given facts- straight up. Hugs back to you! =)

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