Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Mines of Moria

So, I've been reading this book by Bernie Siegel entitled "Love, Medicine, and Miracles". He talks a lot about how survivors of major illnesses tend to be those people who are more positive and at peace with themselves. Among some of the other suggestions he gives to become more positive is one where he asks patients to draw themselves, their disease, and their treatment. This would give the patient and hopefully the doctor some idea of the mental state of the patient and what they really think about their treatment options. I didn't actually draw anything, but I thought about what I might draw. I couldn't come up with anything for awhile, until I remembered an earlier post I had on this blog. It was about Gandalf sitting before two different doors in the Mines of Moria. (Okay, only Lord of the Rings fans will get all of this, but the more I think about it, this image really is resonating with me.) I felt that I was at a crossroads and needed to decide which door I should go through, like Gandalf.

What is interesting about that image is that both paths lead through darkness and that was what I was feeling this week. In the path they end up taking, Gandalf seemingly dies and is lost to the rest of the group for awhile, but the rest of the group makes it out to the realm of Lothlorien where they are able to heal for awhile before continuing on their journey. In a way, my own path seems like that – a path through darkness (i.e., more treatments), suffering a loss (i.e., the idea that I would have a normal life after surgery – which I now realize won’t happen), but making it to a place where I can heal and enjoy some level of peace (i.e., I’ll be okay in the end). The fun thing is that while Gandalf is lost to the group for awhile, he does end up returning in the end, which means, I think, that I will eventually enjoy a “normal” life. Now, how is that for a psychoanalysis of myself!

I have more or less decided on what I will do. In addition to the tissue expansion, I will go through with the Herceptin treatments (weekly injections for a year, although sometimes, they switch to every three weeks), having my ovaries removed and going on aromatase inhibitors. I found another woman's blog (the assertive cancer patient) about dealing with breast cancer and she said something like, "I love Herceptin! It doesn't have any side effects." Her own cancer has metastasized to other parts of her body, and she's been taking Herceptin for five years. Also, my concerns about heart damage were allayed somewhat because I found that those who tend to have heart damage are much older, perhaps in their late 50s/60s. Prior to treatment, they will check your heart function and then monitor it over the course of treatment. I found some information on side effects of aromatase inhibitors - holy crap! They include: some nausea or dizziness, hair loss, achey joints and bone pain, and fatigue. But generally only about 25% of patients feel those side effects. (I met Roy Arnold - retired provosot at OSU who also had breast cancer - a few weeks ago and he is on Femara, I think. He seemed to be doing fine.) Another point that Bernie Siegel makes is that if patients think they will have side effects, they will. Those who believe that the treatment will work and, further, they believe they will not have side effects, don't tend to have them. My plan, then, is to learn how to meditate better (another thing Bernie Siegel suggests) and start adjusting my thinking about both Herceptin and the aromatase inhibitors and see them more in a positive light rather than dreading the negative effects. That way, I will feel that I'm doing everything I can to keep the cancer from spreading anywhere else.

I am, however, going to refuse the chemotherapy. I don't think there is any kind of mind adjustment I can make there. My body and mind remember too viscerally how I did the first time and I don't think any amount of meditation will help erase that memory. And, to some extent, I think I am still dealing with the effects of chemo from the first time. I have been fatigued for quite awhile, and while other stress certainly compounds that, I think those other chemicals are still there somewhere.

Okay, there's another book to read . . . again, everyone, I appreciate your support and you reading this blog.

1 comment:

dave/judy said...

Hi Deed, I am so amazed at your ability to pshcyo understand your thoughts and feelings. And glad you have Scott to bounce things off (hoping not literally) but we are very happy you are able to work your way thru all this. I am reminded of the old saying "--- walk a mile in someone elses shoes" and It seems to jerk me back in perspective when I start to feel sorry for myself. Guess we all have our own devils. I too think scott is right about distractions. You will dig yourself a hole if you don't have something to expend energy on. Hang in there girl, there really is a light at the end of the tunnel just a couple of corners in between right now.
Love ya