The Aftermath of Cancer, 2020 and COVID.

Christmas with my favorite!

Happy New Year everyone! I am sitting here reflecting on this past year and ever so grateful. Did COVID rock our world, absolutely. But, I am ever so grateful to say it hasn’t taken anyone away from us. I appreciate my parents attitude about it and it’s one I share. We have to live our lives trusting God and know that our days are numbered since the beginning and nothing we do will change when our earthly time is up. If COVID is the thing that takes us from this earth then so be it, we know where we are going.

Many family members have tested positive and had some milder symptoms, nobody has been hospitalized. We have been careful but not to the extent that we will miss out on visiting loved ones and attending family gatherings, hosting holidays and giving hugs. We wear a mask if it is required and we social distance in public places, but with family we live! If you were a friend that came to my Crazy Christmas Sweater party you got a hug, good fellowship and freedom from masks. We had a blast! The holidays were wonderful and my parents flew out to join us for the first time this Christmas. We spoiled them good. My daughter and her fiancé joined us from Texas also. We are blessed.

This year has had medical hardships. My husband Dan got sick in March and after a couple weeks he ended up in the hospital for several days with NO visitors allowed, diagnosed with pneumonia. His COVID test was negative. Although the infectious disease doctor and pulmonologist believe he could have possibly had it and either got a false negative or was passed the COVID infection and had secondary pneumonia. We will never really know. They tested him in August for antibodies and he was negative but they say the antibodies only last for 2-4 months. His medical issues have lingered, mostly fatigue and shortness of breath. He was getting better after his hospitalization and then in August began feeling worse which began another coarse of treatment for “walking pneumonia.”

His shortness of breath never fully resolved and after a chest X-ray showed some non-conclusive areas it began months of fighting with our insurance for further scans, referrals to specialists, more doctor appointments, and more fighting with the insurance. Finally I got him an appointment with one of my fabulous doctors at City of Hope for further investigation. That was key. COH is no nonsense and won’t put up with insurance denials.

Meanwhile in September his smart watch told him he had atrial fib, which resulted in EKGs and more referrals. He did not have A fib but something “inconclusive,” again, showed up, which led to further testing throughout October and November. His heart rate was consistently high so he was put on medication for that. His blood pressure was high and so he was put on medication for that. They ruled a lot out but never really gave a good explanation for what was causing all these new symptoms. Also, was his heart the source of his shortness of breath or his lungs, or a hiatal hernia they found? This is the question!

So now he is seeing a team of specialists at COH, getting further tests done this month and hopefully they are going to get to the bottom of it all. He has always been a little mysterious in his medical issues, but we are hoping for some solid answers.

So that is the worst of what 2020 brought us. My poor husband has had a rough year. I did mention the aftermath of cancer in my title, so I will share where I am at in my journey.

2020 has been good to me overall. Surgeries are behind me, cancer treatments finished at the end of 2019. I had tattooing (nipple color) done 3 separate times this year because the color didn’t take too well the first two times and needed touching up. I still see several specialists including my oncologist every 3-6 months for follow up. As far as lingering symptoms go, this is the part that is foreign to most people, myself included. Chemotherapy side effects can last for months, even years and in some cases permanently.

My body has been adversely effected in ways that unfortunately are permanent, some I can and will overcome. It screwed up my metabolism and hormones. So it pushed me into menopause and often the symptoms can be more severe when this happens and mine are; including heat intolerance, joint pain, hot flashes, and weight gain. My metabolism is out of whack which also made the pounds pile on post treatment which, according to my endocrinologist, is extremely common for cancer patients post treatment. I have gained 60 pounds in the last year and my goal is to spend 2021 losing it!!! I am still experiencing mild neuropathy (nerve damage) in my feet and legs. At this point it is permanent. I have Chemo brain fog still at times, my memory isn’t as good, my vision is more blurry. I don’t drive at night anymore. Then there is the fatigue from decreased metabolism, screwed up hormones, weight gain and spending so much time inactive due to a combination of all of the above, my husbands shortness of breath and resulting lack of stamina, and COVID restrictions as well. I am blessed that with an altered immune system that has been hit hard the last couple years I have escaped illness. Praise God!

So that’s my life! I’m grateful for it and I’m happy. But my goal this year is weight loss, increasing activity and hopefully then, my energy.

Cancer has changed me. I am much less social and more reclusive. I actually enjoy being home more than anything and often alone. I like it! Weird…for me anyways!

So I became a dog person this last year. My wonderful husband humored me and went along at first even though he wasn’t excited about the idea until he delved in in March when we went to see a litter of Golden Retrievers not knowing the address was a shopping center parking lot and the litter was being sold out of the back of some jerks Prius. Only two puppies left, I was ready to walk away, but Dan suddenly wanted to “save” this puppy from that man! So we came home that day with our Lexy girl.

Lexy

We had a 6 month old cocker spaniel named Lady at the time that later moved to Texas to become my daughters puppy because of behavioral issues we couldn’t deal with. Lexy, on the other hand, was the perfect fit we were looking for.

In August we welcomed Maximus the great, “Max,” into our house. My husband had always wanted a Great Dane which we set aside when we thought we were done with pets. But when we started looking for a friend for Lexy, we chose Max so my husband would love him and be invested as much as I was and as much as he was with Lexy. Also, because after researching 4 breeds of interest, we concluded he was a perfect breed for our lifestyle. So I am officially a dog person. I spend most of my days with Max and Lexy and they have turned out to be perfect fits for us! They are so smart and well behaved and we have our routine.

Max

In September I fostered a momma cat and seven kittens which reminded me how much I loved breeding animals. I grew up always having a cat that had kittens every year. I had fun fostering them for 5 weeks until they were old enough to be adopted out by the shelter. But it ignited a spark in me again and I decided I want to breed puppies!!!

Our new love for Golden retrievers and knowing the popularity of the breed made it the perfect choice. So again my wonderful husband allowed me to invest in another puppy!!! An English cream golden male. He will be 8 weeks old in 2 days. I picked him out and he will be coming in 2 weeks. So a year from now we can breed pure bred (non papered) Golden retrievers as hobby breeders. I am so excited!!!!

Axel

Who knew that 2020 would bring us 3 wonderful puppies and a whole different lifestyle and hobby? It is perfect for me being home alone most of the time and enjoying my new squad, they are my constant companions!

So as 2021 starts off, Dan, myself, Tristan, Lexy, Max and our unnamed puppy to come, wish you the happiest and healthiest of New Years, blessings and prosperity galore, love and joy found in living life, making memories and in wonderful family moments!

There is hope beyond 2020! To God be all Glory on earth as in heaven!

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