Monday, June 24, 2013

I am a dandelion.

As much as I am frustrated with my body for having to undergo cancer treatment again, I am also amazed at its resiliency.  Just over three weeks ago I underwent Axillary Lymph Node Dissection.  Two short weeks ago I was not yet healed enough to ride off road-although that didn't really stop me:)  Last weekend, I rode consecutive days off-road with no issues and this weekend I raced.  Yes, you read that correctly, I raced my mountain bike and it hurt so good!

Honestly, the thought of squeezing in another race prior to starting treatment never EVER crossed my mind until last weekend after two fabulous, complication free mountain bike rides had me feeling happier and more focused and relaxed than I have been in weeks.  Not that I have been going around moping, but the prospect of racing my bike added a skip to my stride and an extra big smile on my face.  I started to tell a few friends that I was entertaining the idea and as the week passed became more and more excited.

The fact that I had done no structured training and absolutely no race-effort intensity since 12-Hours of Mesa Verde in May wasn't ideal, but I also knew that I had a solid training base and fitness doesn't just disappear.  At least that is what I hoped.....

Well, we almost didn't even make it to the race venue as there was a semi-truck on fire blocking the Eastbound lanes in Parley's canyon.  Fortunately we were able to squeeze through after being stopped for 45 minutes and made it up to Park City just in time for a short warm-up prior to the slightly delayed race start.

The race:  USCS#3-Round Valley:

The Pro Women's field was small, just me and Erin.  A few pro girls had traveled to Montana for the Pro XCT race and a few were either stuck in Parley's canyon or didn't want to deal with the interstate jam.  Regardless, Erin is a formidable competitor, she has had an outstanding season, and finished less than a minute behind me after five hours and 50 miles of racing at the True Grit earlier this year.  She is also super nice and I was psyched to be racing against her.  We started off pretty slow on a dirt road into a really strong headwind.  I tucked behind Erin for a few seconds and she tucked behind me for a few as well, but for the most part we rode fairly side-by-side into the stiff headwind.  I led into the first singletrack climb and noticed that I had a small gap by the top.  This gap seemed to open even more on the next downhill, but Erin was never far behind.  I tried to ride the next 26 miles smoothly, efficiently, and consistently never letting off the gas, but never attacking as I was not sure my lack of recent high-end efforts would allow me to recover.
Temperatures were perfect for racing
(photo: Chris See)
and the Park City backdrop is always amazing
(photo: Chris See)
I spent most of the race going back and forth with some of the Expert Men.  Normally I would just attack and try to drop them, but today's strategy was smooth, efficient, and consistent.  
Based on the amount of dirt on my face, I clearly ate a lot of their dust, but
I also got a nice draft going into the headwind on the final lap.
(Photo: Chris See)

On the final lap my legs started to cramp.  After two hours of racing, the intensity finally took its toll. 
I focused all my energy on keeping my leg muscles relaxed and turning the pedals over.  
Photo: Lisa Palmer-Leger

 After just over two hours of racing, I took the victory!  
My legs immediately seized and I couldn't walk for about ten minutes.  
It was totally worth it!  

After the race, a friend compared my resiliency to a dandelion.  You can tear me down, dig me out, spray me with chemicals and I just keep popping back up.  Hopefully, stronger and more beautiful than ever.  Here's to my 2013 mantra:  I am a dandelion!  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photo Shoot

Undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 2011 was the most difficult thing I have ever done.   Recovering from treatment, maintaining my zest for life, and regaining health and fitness is what I am most proud of.  As we embark on Round 2 of treatment, Shannon and I wanted some photos, of higher quality than our typical iPhone facebook photos, to document how far we've come.  I also figured that since my beloved long hair that I have spent two years growing out is about to go, yet again, that we should document it!

So I called my friend and professional photographer, Anna Pocaro Manley, who volunteers her time to Heal Courageously, a non-profit that takes professional photos of people and their families who are undergoing treatment for cancer at NO COST.

Anna is an absolutely amazing photographer.  Somehow she was able to capture beautiful photos of two of the biggest nerds ever!  Her photos are all so good that I am having a hard time choosing favorites.  Anna has her own business so even if you are not undergoing treatment for cancer, she will take photos of you, your family, or whatever you want.  She is also quite adventurous and I am pretty sure she was ready to hike up a mountain for our photo shoot!  Fortunately we found a beautiful and accessible location right at the base of the mountains.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Some normalcy before the storm

Last weekend my surgeon okayed me doing a short mountain bike ride.  Not because I was necessarily healed enough, but because it would be good for my soul.  Both were true.  I experienced a little tightness and swelling the next day, but man did it feel good to be riding through trees.

After my short set-back, my body once again kicked into healing overdrive and I am so happy to say that I have been taking full advantage of it.  I have hit dirt five consecutive days-sans any swelling or tightness-and I am the most focused, content, and relaxed that I have been since my life took a wrong turn a month ago.

Some highlights from the past week:

 Helping teach skills at the Roxx Rides clinic. 
 I really, really, really enjoy sharing knowledge with fellow cyclists!
My trademark style
A great group of ladies show up for these rides!
 A new sign at the top of Flying Dog.  This trail is waaaay too fun to rip to slow down.
 Park City Point to Point pre-ride with my favorite riding partner
This is what I call the result of a very good day!

Up Next:  In my last post I mentioned that treatment would likely start June 18th.   It is now looking like this will be postponed.  We are awaiting results for a test that Shannon and I requested, the Caris Molecular Profile.  These results may help guide us in choosing the most appropriate and effective treatment as opposed to just stabbing in the dark.  I am hoping that the results give us some clarity as we choose treatment.  We are also working with MD Anderson in Houston for a 2nd opinion and if all works out should be traveling down there in the next week or so.  My oncology team at Huntsman has been supportive of these decisions and as usual I am blown away by their thoughtful recommendations and excellent care.  

In the meantime, I plan to take full advantage of this short delay... 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013: The Plan

Undergoing cancer treatment...again...was certainly not the plan for 2013, but based on the events of the past few weeks it is looking like it will consume us for the rest of the year.

Here's the scoop:

Surgery went well.  I was a bit groggy the day after, but by weekend I was doing easy hikes with Shannon and Dizzy and my drain.

 I think this is totally disgusting, but this is where the drain comes out of my body.  
You can see why it is an infection risk.
 It drains into this bulb which I empty and measure a couple times daily.  
Once 25 cc or less is produced for 2 consecutive days, the drain can be removed.  
The drain never produced very much despite me being fairly active so it was removed six short days after surgery.


Actually, I still had the drain for this hike

That same day Shannon and I met with my medical oncologist.  This is what we learned:

It is suspected that my sentinel lymph node biopsy from 2011 was a false negative and based on this alone my risk of distant recurrence is statistically increased.

My oncologist had two theories for why these axillary cancer cells survived my first round of treatment:

1- The cancer cells were already established in the lymph nodes back in 2011.  Decreased bloodflow to the area due to the nearby surgical site reduced the effectiveness of chemotherapy and the cells were either too well established for Tamoxifen to be effective or my body is resistant to Tamoxifen.

2-The original cancer is resistant to treatments that have been given.

If #1 is the case, surgery and radiation is most likely curative.  If #2 is the case, new treatments are needed as there may still be rogue cancer cells lurking around in my body waiting to find host in distant organs.

Based on my young age, good health, and potential to live a long, cancer free life, the consensus is for me to undergo chemotherapy followed by radiation followed by changing Tamoxifen to an Aromatase Inhibitor.

This decision was not taken lightly by anyone, especially me.  It takes more than one hand to count the number of oncologists I have consulted with.  With additional treatment there are always risks, some life threatening and some that could significantly affect my quality of life, and it is scary as hell.  That said, there are some folks who love me too much for me to risk the gamble of not undergoing additional treatment.  You can bet that I will be doing everything I can to protect my health through this round of treatment.

On top of that, I had to get tested for Hepatitis A because I have been eating the Costco organic frozen berries involved in the recent Hep A recall.  Thankfully, the test came back negative.  I also had a pelvic ultrasound that came back negative.

Now that my body has been poked, prodded, and scanned in just about every way possible, I am ready to start the next step of treatment.  Chemo is scheduled to start June 18th.  Exactly 2 years from my final Neulasta shot in 2011.

My plan is not to hunker down and just 'get through' the rest of the year.  Instead, I plan to enjoy life as much as possible.  Maybe I'll even try some new things.  I did already declare 2013 the summer of skirts!