I have some background information to give you before my thankfulness for today makes sense.
So, it is common knowledge among breast cancer patients that breast cancers like to travel to the bone, lung, liver and brain. My oncologist mentioned to me that estrogen receptor positive cancers tend to like to nestle themselves in the bones, and since she mentioned this in my follow up appointment after my mastectomy, the fear has been in the back of my head. Actually, not even the back of my head. It’s been in the front of my mind. Terror. Fear. Every ache and pain, my first thought is “oh my god it’s cancer”. Nevermind the fact that I’m running daily. Nevermind the fact that sometimes “normal”, non-diagnosed-with-cancer-people, past or present, sometimes feel twinges or aches or twitches or muscle spasms. I ended up texting my surgeon a couple weeks ago because I was having pain in my chest/shoulder area. If I were not in my current situation, I would have chalked it up to a pulled muscle from running my dog, who sometimes gets overeager and drags me whichever direction her nose leads her. But because of my circumstances presently, my mind went to the dark side. The “oh-my-god-its-cancer-and-I’m-going-to-drop-dead-tomorrow” side. So my surgeon, being the wonderful person he is squeezed me into his schedule. I had an ultrasound (holy fucking PTSD batman…. I was in tears and shaking the entire time), and everything looked fine. It was determined that it was just a pulled muscle, and that I’m okay. And it would be unlikely for me to be presenting symptoms at this point after having just had a clean bone scan in April. I was also told that most women in my position are like this-terrified of absolutely EVERY sensation they notice in their bodies-for the first year. So good news, I’m normal?
At my pre-op appointment for my most recent surgery(8/18, surgery on 8/26), it was determined that my white blood cell count dropped a little bit from where it was in May after my first surgery. The workup from 2 days after my mastectomy recorded my white blood cell count at 4.5. Normal range is between 4.0 and 11.0. The pre-op appointment on 8/18 recorded my white blood cell count at 3.9. Not really alarming, but of course, because I’m me, I was terrified. Because cancer that invades the bone interferes with white blood cell production. So after receiving those results, my mind went to the dark side, yet again. I was told that it didn’t appear significant, but my surgeon ordered a differential the day of surgery just to keep an eye on it. So, after I got out of surgery, in my horrendous anesthesia-bitch-monster-fog, I was given the results of the differential. 3.6. I was inconsolable. Part of my inconsolable state was most likely due to anesthesia-anesthesia tends to make me extremely volatile and reactive and emotionally all over the place. But the other part was legitimate fear I think. The anesthesiologist came back to visit me after surgery in the recovery unit, to tell me I looked like a young barbara streissand, but found me in tears. He told me that my “low” count was not really that low, and to try not to worry, and to trust that if the doctors thought there was something wrong with it, they would have ordered more tests, which sort of calmed me down. I reached out to my integrative doctor to tell her my “horrible news”, and she just told me to take a deep breath, that differentials are essentially just a picture of your cells in a moment in time, and that white counts (and other counts) can dip for many reasons (one of them being a vegan diet, another is running). She told me we would watch the trend, and mailed out lab papers to have this followed up. Told me to breathe. So I did. But only after I looked at my blood work records from the last 5 years. In general, it appears that I tend to run on the lower side of normal. There were lots of 3.6’s, some 3.9’s, some 4.2’s, one or two “highs”, which aren’t even considered high, just higher for me. This did make me feel a little better. But still not completely settled.
I had bloodwork done last week, and today I had a follow up appointment. My white blood cells were back up! 3.8. While just under the normal range, it made me relieved to know that my counts weren’t steadily falling. Also, my thyroid function is good, my vitamin d levels are now GREAT (they were extremely low when they were checked just after diagnosis in April), my insulin levels are GREAT, my glucose levels are GREAT, my selenium level is GREAT (also was pretty low around my diagnosis). My B-12 is a little low, which is typical for vegans. At this point it isn’t a concern, and not something to supplement because folic acid can stimulate cancer activity in some cases.
Today I am thankful that my bloodwork reflects vitality. I am here, and I am very much alive, with scars to prove it.
Also, day 2 on low dose tamoxifen, and I feel NOTHING in terms of side effects. We shall see what tomorrow brings. But today I am thankful for my body. Because even though it betrayed me a little bit with the whole cancer thing, it seems like it’s adapting quite well to my new lifestyle. And I’m thankful for that.