One Breast Cancer Battle Concludes, Another Begins

From this morning's Moonstone Beach walk
From this morning's Moonstone Beach walk

Today is my first day of becoming Arimidex-free.  The breast cancer battle concludes.

Today is the first day of California Sue’s first four-month round of chemo.  Her breast cancer battle continues.

California Sue, as I will refer to her to protect her personal life, is the photographer for my elephant seal post under Nature Of…  Sue has honed her nature photo skills with her whimsical signature.  (Note the photo on that post up the elephant seal’s snout.)

So, Sue, here’s a photo for you. 

Cancer thoughts roused my awakening today.  The what ifs, and the why for’s, and the now what’s, must have brought on an email, sent in good faith, warning us survivors of all the dangers of our lifestyles.  California Sue, you’ll probably get a bundle of these now.  But here was my reply:

I recently joined SurviveOars.  We are a group of breast cancer survivors that paddle a dragon boat in Estero Bay in Morro Bay.  What an experience.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that these women are of every ilk and type and kind I have ever seen.  We have an 80-year-old who gave up surfing 5 years ago, after major breast cancer surgery, we have a 35-year-old and super-fit cycler, we have a 20-year vegan, we have an organic farmer, we have the captain of a whale watching boat, etc…..we have fat ones, skinny ones, muscular ones, religious ones, white ones, black ones, brown and yellow ones.  We all have in common: Breast cancer.  Many of us have another thing in common–we took all the precautions, like nursing our children, avoiding HT, etc., and we STILL got breast cancer.
Just don’t let yourself be beat up if you eat meat, like sugar, drink coffee, never smoked, smoked, drink, never drank, because, while good health is the biggest protectorate out there, cancer happens.  It is what it is.  Bless the food you consume, bless your body, and know that you are strong and that sometimes cancer just happens.  There is no “type” that gets cancer.  There are definite things to avoid to help one be healthier, but remember, you came into this world with biased genetics and biased early life experiences.  Bless these biased parts of your life and be well.

I took some liberties with ages and professions, but they are pretty close and paint the picture given to me when I sat in the Santa Fe Cancer Center beating myself up for bad habits and not understanding why all the preventatives I embraced failed.  The 25-year oncology nurse veteran stopped in her tracks, put down the blood pressure monitor and without a breath stated:  I’ve been doing this for 25-years.  I have seen absolutely every kind of woman possible in this room—all in breast cancer treatment.  Do not beat yourself up. 

So, again, I liberally quote her.

For my new readers, here are my Top Ten Cancer Survival Tips from a post:

Top 10 Breast Cancer Survival Tips

Right now I have upper body awareness thanks to a group of breast cancer survivors.  (This is my way of saying, “Ouch!”) I spent the morning on Estero Bay paddling—aggressively paddling—a canoe.

 A sister breast cancer survivor hooked me on this weekly Saturday morning event, with other breast cancer survivors.  See www.surviveoars.orgsur

 This is the first time since my cancer adventure began in 2004 that I have participated in a collective breast cancer survivor activity.  The painful truth is that I could not emotionally deal with it.  This summer I will round the corner to my 5th survival-year.  I pray I’ll be released from my daily drug dosages and experience how life feels without chemical side-effects.

 At night, when sleep escapes me, I recall what I did to make it through the day I found the lump, the day the biopsy was performed and the subsequent call that began, “Charmaine, I’m so sorry, but…,” the day I marched into the hospital for surgery, the day I celebrated in the halls of the Santa Fe Cancer Center after completing six weeks of radiation, and finally the night I broke down into inconsolable sobs with pillow bashing and bad words.

 But like my survivor sisters in that canoe this morning, I’m okay.  Maybe changed, but okay, nonetheless.  So here are my Top 10 Breast Cancer Survivor Tips

1)      Faith and hope.  Prayer/meditation in any form is good.

2)      Dignity.  I dressed up and wore make-up for my daily treatments.

3)      Knowledge. I read and researched.

4)      Trust.  I acknowledged that my medical team knew more than I ever could.

5)      Willfulness.  No excuses.  Just keep moving toward the goal of health.

6)      Acceptance.  Any woman of any kind or type can get breast cancer. It wasn’t my fault.

7)      Rest.  I spent at least six-months sleeping.

8)      Avoidance.  Avoiding negative people, places and moods.

9)      Walking.  Not power walks, but admiring the countryside, the passing pooches, and the sky.

10)   Humor.  So maybe some of the ensuing breast jokes got bad, but it relieved my anxiety when I could laugh, even at myself.

There is one other element that I didn’t realize until the night I bashed pillows.  The support of family and friends was the secret ingredient to my recovery.  Those people in my life remain golden forever.


Subscribe to Charmaines Muse Pallet.  My next blog is a Mother’s Day special–something that happened yesterday at Rosedale Cemetary in Los Angeles.

3 thoughts on “One Breast Cancer Battle Concludes, Another Begins

  1. Charmaine,

    Your much appreciated and unconditional support gives me knowledge, strength, hope, and daily tips to get through this transition to the survivor end of the tunnel. Thank you!

    California Sue

  2. Hi, I was very inspired reading about surviveoars. As a breast cancer advocate and survivor, I believe very much in the sisterhood of experience and in the words of Albert Schweitzer “whoever among us has learned through personal experience what pain and anxiety really are must help to ensure that those out there who are in … need obtain the same help that once came to (her)”

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