Part 11 – A Look Back on my Cancer Journey – Racing, Recovery – and Rafting!

(Adapted from journal entries and family emails 11 years ago in 2006.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Today was the Colorado Springs Sailin’ Shoes 10K race downtown. I’ve done it in the past, but today got to watch Tess finish her first 10K. She did awesome. It was hard to not be a participant, but rewarding to be someone else’s cheerleader.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The more I learn about cancer, the more I realize how clueless I really am. My assumptions about follow-up tests missed the mark in a big way, time-wise. I knew I’d be undergoing another PET scan, but didn’t realize that the equipment is designed to pick up *all* high metabolic activity in the body. Formerly healthy cells that are in the process of healing can show up just as brightly as cancer cells that are still dividing. With all the interior damage to my pelvic organs, lymph nodes, colon, bladder, etc., I’d probably glow like a fireworks display right now. My North Dakota radiology doc explained that the exterior burns I’m seeing heal and peel are similar to the interior burns – only the internal damage is actually worse since the radiation is designed to concentrate there. No wonder I still dread every trip to the bathroom. I’m told that by the weekend, that too will start to improve.

This said, my PET scan is scheduled for 7 weeks from now (August 8th) when much more healing will have taken place. I’ll have some type of internal scope around that same time by the surgeon who did the ultrasound. The combination of these two tests will determine the state of Tootie the Toomah, along with a possible biopsy. If it looks like the PET scan is still questionable, they may wait and repeat the test again later. The port has to remain in place until the “all clear” is given by my medical oncologist. I don’t have to have any more blood draws for 2 months, just a port flush in a month. I was really hoping to get the port removed so I could carry a day pack over that shoulder and get back into the mountains, but it looks like I’ll have to stick with my variety of hip packs for hiking purposes. Not sure if I’ll be able to get back to running as the port is a nuisance with sports bras and interferes with upper body mobility.

I hope I don’t sound like a huge whiner. I’m extremely thankful that treatment is over and my energy is returning daily. It’s also nice to be able to sit while typing again. I walked 3 miles yesterday and skipped a nap on Sunday, so look out! The old girl is coming back to life! This Friday, Tim, Tess, Aunt Joan and I are going to hike the Incline again. I promised Joan I’d stay with her and just go halfway, so we’ll see how we all do on this outdoor staircase.

Since it’ll be mid-August before I know my cancer status, I’ll probably be postponing returning to work until I know I’m out of the woods. It’ll allow for more garden time and more training time to get my cardio and muscle fitness back to where it was. My goal is to stand on top of at least one fourteener this summer since we climbed 5 mountains last year.

One step at a time,
Mj
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Saturday, July 1, 2006

My sister, Louise, flew out to spend some time and a group of us went white water rafting on the Arkansas River. It was a pre-planned adventure with Tim’s Bible Study guys and their families. I did my usual “bandanna wrap under a baseball cap” head covering with added sunscreen and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We had lunch along the river and the best part – no unexpected bathroom incidents for me. Folks – that is no small deal when you’re in a wetsuit! The one thing that kind of bugged me was that our guide went around the boat asking each person what they did, about their family, etc. He excluded me and I wasn’t sure if it was out of respect or what!? Everyone else in the boat already knew what I’d come through and I wasn’t looking for pity – just to be treated as normal, not invisible.

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