• Cheryl

Lump Day: Two Years Later

It's been quite awhile since I last had anything to share for Lump Day, which is a good thing! But it's been on my mind lately thanks to a number of things that have popped up.

One is that August 2 was the two-year anniversary of the "Something odd is showing up on your mammogram - we need you to come back in for more tests" phone call. I'm sure every survivor remembers the day they got that kind of call. I noticed the date, of course, and realized again everything had happened in such a short amount of time, and commented to Casey that in a lot of ways, it feels so much longer than two years. But the point is that now we're back in the timeline period from the first call to the day of my surgery, and as much as I try not to let it, it gets to me. Just the SEASON gets to me - the angle of the sun, the smell of the outdoors, the shades of green in the grass and trees shifting to shades of brown. My senses put me right back there, right into that moment, without my permission.

Another thing is that I've been experiencing issues with my right eye in the last year, beginning two months after I began taking Arimidex - several instances of eye strain and double vision, and more disturbingly, two instances of my right pupil spontaneously dilating into an odd shape, shifting back and forth from dilated to contracted over a span of 15-20 minutes, then going back to normal. Two head CT scans and one brain MRI came back clear, as did my eye exam and the tests they ran there. My optometrist attributed the eye strain and double vision to my needing a new glasses prescription, and I thankfully haven't had any more issues with that since getting my new glasses. But the pupil problem surfaced again a few weeks ago, and this time I made an appointment with Casey's ophthalmologist to get more outside input.

Believe it or not, his wife happens to be a breast cancer oncologist, which was so fortunate; it gave him detailed insight into the ramifications of not just my cancer and Arimidex, but also the reaction of my body to the cancer, the Arimidex, the radiation, and the hysterectomy - the last one being something I hadn't even considered. He did his own exam and tests on my eyes and assured me that they're perfectly healthy, and he diagnosed me with Aide's pupil, which he also assured me won't harm my eye or my vision long-term. And he said that overall, my eye issues are due to a combination of stress from the past two years, the Arimidex, and my body's abrupt shift into medical menopause. Physically, he told me, I'm still adapting to the sudden lack of hormones, still recovering from the emotional rollercoaster of that wild first year, still settling into the effects of the medication, and all of it together affects every part of the body, including the eyes. I might have experienced these things if the last two years had been normal and I'd eased my way into menopause naturally, but if I did, they would have come on so gradually that I probably wouldn't have even noticed. As it is, everything that happened was a shock to my system, plus, as he put it, I'm now hyper-attuned to everything I experience and feel, so I'm noticing EVERYTHING. Understatement of the year.

It was a relief to have an explanation for everything, and a relief to know that should these things happen again in the future, they won't hurt me. And it was stunning to learn that my cancer adventure is now affecting my EYES, and doing so two years after the fact. Which is what prompted me to write about it - again, this is something you never hear about, definitely something I'd never thought about. Yet another reminder that I'm a constant recipient of the gift that keeps on giving.

And thirdly, my cat, Minx, is sick, likely from cancer. And that "likely" is the reason it's so difficult - we don't know for sure. We don't know what's going on, only that something is, and that it's affecting her physically and personality-wise. Our vet has treated her to the best of his capability with what he has access to here, and we can't get an appointment with the vet specialist in Pittsburgh until mid-September. It's a double-edged sword that she's still in too good of physical shape to get in sooner - she's still eating, drinking, moving around, keeping to her usual routine with no troubles, playing occasionally. She's not eating AS much, she's sleeping and laying around a lot more than when she was healthy, but she's not to such extremes that the specialist would qualify her as an emergency. So all we know is that she's sick, and all we can do right now is watch her deteriorate little by little.

This has been hitting me extremely hard - I've been an emotional wreck, even reluctant to get out of bed in the morning and have to face it and deal with the uncertainty of the situation all over again every day . Casey has called me "over-obsessed" with Minx, but I haven't been able to help myself. And then, last night, I had an epiphany: I'm reliving ME through what's happening to her. It's the exact same time of year, even practically down to the dates - her symptoms started end of July/beginning of August, the same time I got my phone call. I couldn't get in to see Dr. K until mid-September; Minx can't get in to see her specialist until mid-September. It's the same agony of waiting, of helplessness, of knowing something is very wrong and being unable to do anything about it. The exact same agony of inertia. And I'm losing her the way I could have been lost. I'm identifying with her in every single aspect, and I'm going through it all over again. I don't know why I didn't see it sooner.

It goes to show that those memories don't go away, or even fade as quickly as you hope, as quickly as I'd thought mine had. It's unnerving to realize that I can find myself immersed in it again at the drop of a hat, and it can feel just as real as it felt then. But at least I've recognized it now. I can remind myself over and over that it isn't me. It's not happening to me. Not this time. It doesn't lessen the pain of losing a pet, but it helps a little to be able to separate myself emotionally in that way.

So please, if you would, cross your fingers and think good thoughts for the Minx, so we can at least get a handle on whatever's going on with her and be able to make her feel better, however temporary it might be. As for me, I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and doing well as we continue to battle this virus that's upended everything for everybody.