Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big Decisions are Delayed

The test of my estrogen levels came back yesterday and show I'm still "post-menopausal", meaning my ovaries aren't coming back to functioning yet, not producing estrogen. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. Overall, I think I'm relieved because honestly, we have enough on our plate right now, and having one more big decision to deal with could potentially have pushed me over the edge. Mother Nature has granted me a reprieve, at least for now. The test will be run again in April to see if there is any change. For most women whose ovaries come back to functioning, it happens in the first year after finishing chemo, which was September for me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hair Update

It's coming back! Last night Jason and I were out on a date and a woman came over to our table and told me how much she loved my haircut and how perfect it was on me. Made my day! Funny thing is that right now, as it's growing back, I keep having flashbacks to the last time it was this short, which is when it was starting to fall out. I had cut it before it started to fall out. Even today, as I put some sticky pomade in it, I had this quick flashback as I'm touching my hair, this reflex thought of "Oh, be careful! If you rub too hard it will stick to your fingers!" Then I remember it's not going to fall out. And I admit, I give it a little tug at that point, just for affirmation.

What about babies?

This question seems to fall into one of two categories: either Questions People Don't Want to Ask, or Issues People Don't Know Are Issues At All When It Comes To Cancer. Before all this, for me it would have been the latter. Before this, I had no idea that breast cancer had any affect on your fertility or decisions about having babies in the future.

But it does.

There are two reasons.

1- A good sign the chemo is working is that your ovaries shut down. Mine shut down as soon as I started chemo. What that means is that I was slammed into menopause at 36, hot flashes and all. And it remains to be seen whether they will come back to functioning. At my age, it is unlikely. In this day and age, even this is sometimes a small obstacle if you want to have another baby, since there are ways to get to those hidden little eggs. BUT, this is where the second reason comes into play.

2- Because my cancer is estrogen-fed, getting pregnant raises my risk of a recurrence. When you get pregnant, your body surges with estrogen that your body needs to carry out the pregnancy. It can be done, and women have gone through carefully-monitored pregnancies after cancer and have been ok, but it's not a simple decision.

Though overall I've always said that my age has worked in my favor throughout treatment, this is one area where women who are even younger than me going through this have an advantage. Your risks of a recurrence are highest in the first five years after treatment. Women who wait until after that 5-year period to try to have a baby have better odds. I'm 37. I don't feel I have 5 more years to wait. And even if I did, I can't do that to Jason. I can't imagine the stress it would put into his life every day of a pregnancy, wondering if these kids will be his to raise alone because we felt we just HAD to get pregnant again.

I think this is why Rory has the energy of 3 kids... to let us know that she'll keep us plenty busy for now. We might decide down the road to look into adoption, but right now we are rebuilding our current family. We are house shopping and doing more high-energy things together now that I feel good. We're having more quality time together and enjoying it.

This is not a touchy subject for me, so don't worry about talking about babies, pregnancies, or even about calling me to return my maternity clothes (thanks, friend). It's just one of those things that people don't know is a complication for women in chemo, so I thought I'd share. (story Survive Cancer, Have Baby from Newsweek)