Boxing, blogging and trying to ignore the breast cancer beast

30 Oct

Photo courtesy of Jim Seida / NBCNews.com

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. I’ve had a busy summer — hiking, baking, boxing and most of all doing this thing I like to call “pretending I never had cancer.”

But summer’s over and fall is here and with it, October, the month when it’s pretty much impossible to forget your breast cancer because everywhere you look people are dressed like gigantic pink ribbons and/or talking about their battle with the beast. And I suppose I’m no different.

I wrote a series of essays last October about my BC diagnosis, my double mastectomy and what it was like to go “out there” and date while going through breast cancer treatment, to try to find love in the time of chemotherapy.

My latest essay, published today on nbcnews.com/TODAY.com, takes up where those other essays left off, delving into some of the ripples you experience after diagnosis and treatment, as you try to navigate that weird territory known as survivorship.  Here’s a snippet:

There’s nothing like having cancer to make you appreciate the little things in life — like buying shampoo, running a few miles or being able to forget the address of the hospital where you were treated.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011, I felt like I lived at that hospital. Today — a year out from treatment — it’s in the rear view mirror, along with the double mastectomy and debilitating chemo and radiation I wrote about last October on TODAY.com.

Not that there aren’t still plenty of daily reminders regarding my year of living cancerously: chemo brain, adhesion pain, hot flashes (courtesy of my new BFF tamoxifen) and, oh yes, my board-flat Olive Oyl chest.

But there have been good, uh, developments, too.

The biggest one — for me — is that I now have hair. For those of you who think baseball is slow and tedious, all I can say is try watching hair grow sometime.

I disguised my bald head with a wig from mid-June until New Year’s Eve then gratefully ditched it, along with the tape, the itchiness, and the constant fear that I’d accidentally spin the thing around backwards while swing dancing like some character on Gilligan’s Island.

Come January, I let my freak flag fly and began rocking a dark gray micro pixie.

“With the wig, I was trying to pass as a healthy, normal woman,” I joked to my friends about my super short ‘do. “Now, I’m trying to pass as French.”

You can read the full essay — and check out more pics of me boxing! — here.  As always, thanks for stopping by. And please feel free to share your story — or favorite survival tip. We’re in this together, people.

41 Responses to “Boxing, blogging and trying to ignore the breast cancer beast”

  1. Nancy October 30, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Marvelous post Diane, maybe one of the best yet.. You rock and so does your hair.

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      Thanks so much, Nancy! And I’m SO excited about the hair! ; )

  2. The Savvy Sister October 30, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Love your attitude and your hair!

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      Thanks so much, Savvy!

  3. mmatassa October 30, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Nice post, Diane, and excellent column at Today. You do such a great job of capturing the reality of this stupid situation. Hang in there, my friend.

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Thanks Mark! I met with a BC buddy last night and I think she’s going to start boxing as soon as she finishes treatment. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a trend. ; )

  4. Utah Nancy October 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    LOVE THE POST. JUST READ YOUR COLUMN FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY AND BOY YOU MADE MY DAY. 4 YEARS OUT AND STILL FEEL THE SAME WAY-UNFORTUNATLY I LOST MY CHEMO CURLS AS SOON AS I CUT MY HAIR :( KEEP UP THE WONDERFUL POSTS!!

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks for the wonderful note, Nancy. My chemo curls are already starting to unravel (sigh), but I’m hoping I’ll maintain some body. Until then, I’m trying to maintain my other body. ; ) Congrats on being four years out — that’s totally awesome — and thanks so much for taking the time to read my stuff and write. Take care and all the best, sister.

  5. Vivi October 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi Diane, I read your article in MSN. Dr. Joshua Levine is a very good Plastic Surgeon. I had my breast recostruction (Diep Flap) done by him almost 6 years ago. I very well recommend him. http://www.diepflap.com Keep it up! Vivi

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks for the note and the PS recommendation, Vivi (FYI, my mom’s name was Viva!). I don’t actually have enough stomach to do a DIEP or a tram. But there are other options out there. I’ll get to the recon one of these days, I swear. In the meantime, it feels awfully good to punch. ; )

      • Irwin Goldzweig October 30, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

        Diane – this is my first time seeing your column. I appreciate what you had to say and wish you the best – you deserve a nice treat to celebrate getting through all the challenges you had in this past year.

      • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        Thanks so much for the kind note, Irwin! I do deserve a nice treat to celebrate getting through all this. Hmmm, maybe I’ll go trick or treating tomorrow night. Chocolate works for me! ; )

  6. jim hudson October 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    darnit. youre article makes me wish i was one of the inappropriately young men. you’re beautiful, sweetheart. keep it up. jim

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks so much. Your note totally made my day, Jim!

  7. Pepita October 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I was diagnosed in late 2006, Double mastectomy, chemo and radiation in 2007, 2 and a half years on arimidex (horrible new estrogen receptor blocker). I chose not to have a reconstruction, don’t wear prosthetics and although I never forget, I don’t dwell on it. I donate a little to Relay for Life or Sponsoring Survivorship. I don’t think of myself as a “survivor” but someone who went through a scary, ass kicking experience and any limitations I have, I have created myself. Never go to a cancer support groups and I don’t dwell on any of it. Some people become consumed by having had it, and unless you still have it or are going through a recurrence, best to just move on. My chemo brain is resolved and the slight weird things that I still feel (teeth issues from chemo, dry eye issues from chemo and hot hot flahses) are just part of life…keep on keeping on and thanks for sharing your story.

    • Michele October 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

      Wow- Also love your post! Just read your site for the first time. I share a very similar story- diagnosed in august 2011, then double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, now tamoxifen. I have expanders and will do implants in march. By far, I think the hardest part was the hair! Thanks for your story- relate so well!

      • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

        Thanks so much for the note, Michele. And I’m so sorry that you’re a member of this crappy club, too. Yes, losing the hair WAS tough. I was so upset about losing my blonde locks, I shaved them off and had them made into a wig. It’s great not having to wear the wig anymore but I still freak out if I see a hair on my clothes. I remember too well that tingling and the early days of hair loss. Ugh. Pray to god we don’t have to go through THAT again!

  8. Michele October 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    Yes- agreed. Hate my curly short do but trying to just be thankful that I have hair!! Easier losing the boobs I think! Had my 3 month check up and lung scan to watch these “likely benign spots” today and all is clear! Good luck to you! Really enjoy your site/blog- glad I found it!!!

  9. Susanne WIlson October 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    Hi,
    My name is Susanne W. I have Stage four lung cancer. Was told in Dec.2011. I love your story I read about the chemo brain, and 100 more things that I can relate to but cant remember now. I have had chemo since jan. 2012. I too walk around like I dont have cancer. Im not sure Im doing it right to be honest with you……you are suppose to all of the sudden enjoy the little things in life. I guess the first few months I was planning my funneral. The next few months I was getting my affairs in order. Dealing with a sister who wanted to Help me to death. Literally. Wanted to make sure she was the one deciding what to do with me if I was unable to make those decisions for myself. Also told me she looked up if it was leagal to take my body out of state and plan my funeral in her state where I havent been in 11 years. Family! ugh! its hard enough to deal with this in your own brain, much less deal with how it effects my family. My support network where I live now has been amazing. They actually looked up things on the internet. Stayed possitive. Left me alone when I needed it. and only knew that when I told them. Didnt take offence when I said I didn’t want to be around anyone. Plus my dogs were the best things that ever happened to me. I think they know womething is going on but they just go with the flow.

    I am still getting treatment every 3 weeks. I guess I will have to do that for the rest of my life. Which is fine with me, as long as I can live happily and independant.

    This is scary stuff. Thank you for sharing oyur stories and letting me ramble.

    Take care everyone!

    Susanne
    Kicking cancers ass

  10. Alexandra October 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    i discovered your blog today through nbc and loved the piece you wrote. At 40, I’ve already had a few breast cancer scares and found your writing and perspective so inspiring and moving. I am now a new follower of your blog. ( -: Thank you! Wishing you many wonderful years ahead of good health and joy!

    • singleshot1 October 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      Thanks so much for the note and for taking the time to check out my blog. I’m honored, truly. Wishing you the best with those creepy BC scares and pray that’s ALL you ever have to deal with.

  11. Jo Kurtz (@IDGem) October 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Thank you for writing. I sometimes forget that there are people out there that are going through what I have and am still going through. Thank you for reminding me. We are a part of a special club, one that we didn’t volunteer for but one that our experiences have made so.

  12. rannpx3 October 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Hi Diane!
    Loved the post, love seeing you – you look like Rocky Balboa (fight-ready that is) all toned up!
    You look terrific, (although I know you don’t always feel terrific), and your hair is gorgeous.
    Huge hugs,
    Rann Patterson
    Survivor
    Cancer Editor

    • singleshot1 October 31, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      Thanks Rann and so great to hear from one of my Twitter buds. Don’t know if I’m *quite* Rocky Balboa but the boxing has definitely built up my shoulders/biceps. Still trying to lose my lunch lady arms, though. ; )

  13. Kate October 31, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Excellent post. It is a truly overwhelming process and hard when you realize no one is going to tell you you’re done. I remember thinking my “survival” appointment was going to be a positive thing. How naive I was! It was basically more bad news and more worries about the spread of the disease, and the effects of the chemo and radiation to my already vulnerable body and mind. Exercise and taking better care of myself has helped me deal much better with that. I was diagnosed to years ago this week and while the worries never go away each day gets a little easier. I applaud you and enjoy your posts. You look great!

  14. kathy watne October 31, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    great article! i am 9 months from my last treatment, 6 chemo sessions, 33 radiations. hair came back in wonderfully weird colors, fortunately i didnt say goodbye to the girls, gained 10 lbs, getting my energy back. rock on!

    • singleshot1 October 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading my work and taking the time to write. And HUGE CONGRATS on making it through chemo and rad (and especially keeping your girls!). Woo hoo! Glad your hair is growing back and that your energy has returned. Working out through treatment made such a huge difference for me. Obviously, chemo kicked me to the curb towards the end, but I was able to get back to running my old mileage within a couple of months. Rock on and great to hear from another member of this lousy club. ; )

  15. Stephen Penland October 31, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    I read your post on NBCNews.com — so very well stated. I’m a guy, and when my hair started to fall out during chemo for Hodgkin’s, I found it to be extremely depressing. Then I thought, guys get bald all the time — what must it be like for a woman? So I can appreciate to a degree with your feelings on this.

    Even though I’m 36 years past treatment, I’m different now than if I had never had cancer or the treatment. The thought never leaves. I also have permanent reminders, and they do their job. But all of that is not bad. There is a silver lining to chemo and radiation, and it starts to glow and maybe even shine several years out. But still, it’s one day at a time, and being thankful for that day. It should be that way for everyone, but cancer survivors are often among the fortunate few who truly appreciate that way of living.

    • singleshot1 November 1, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Thanks so much for reading my work and taking the time to write, Stephen. And huge congrats on being 36 YEARS PAST TREATMENT. Woo hoo! That makes me very happy. And gives me (and others) so much hope. Take care and I’ll keep looking for that silver lining. One thing I can already appreciate – the wonderful people I’ve met — virtually and otherwise — who are also members of this lousy cancer club.

  16. Renn October 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Such a great post! I am part of a closed Facebook group of 7 women with breast cancer — we were all diagnosed at around the same time (late 2010) — and we talk about *everything* you have mentioned. In fact, we were just “talking” about it yesterday. Then I read your post. And I shared it with my friends. And they said, “She thinks just like WE do!” Indeed you do. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us experience every day. xo

  17. Sucer November 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Hey!
    You look great. It’s inspiring to see you do so well.
    I, on the other hand, had a massive meltdown in August where I said awful things to people I love. It took me about 2 weeks to regain my sanity. I just wanted to chuck everything away. What I realized was that I was very angry about the cancer. Instead of finding a way to cope with this, I freaked out on nearest and dearest. Don’t get me wrong; there were problems we needed to talk about. But my response was extreme. It was indicative of my inability to cope with my emotions. I went to see a counsellor. I’ve only seen her twice, but already she’s helped.
    I had another meltdown recently. This was not nuclear. And I was able to see the madness for what it was somewhat earlier than last time.
    My point is just that we all deal with this in different ways. I am fortunate enough to have a loving partner with an absolutely lovely daughter. And I refuse to let my problem affect our relationship. I will figure this out. Maybe, like you, I can punch the shit out of it. I don’t like admitting that I’m angry. But I will. And, I will get over it.
    Keep on keeping on. That’s selfish. You give me inspiration.

    • singleshot1 November 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Thanks so much for your note. Love your honesty. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve had some meltdowns, as well. In fact, I had a HUGE fight with one of my sisters a couple of months ago. It was about a lot of different stuff, but it was also about cancer. I think it’s been very helpful to me to acknowledge how angry this diagnosis (and the surgery/treatment) has made me and it helps — tremendously — to do what I can to even the score. That means trashtalking cancer every chance I get, punching away at it at the gym, and running off steam — literally — on the streets of Seattle. If I didn’t exercise, I would probably be a much bigger bitch than I already am. ; ) I’ve also had plenty of counseling, which has been incredibly helpful. I think it’s smart to use as many tools as you can to get through this crap. Blogging even seems to help me – not just because I can get stuff off my chest, but because I can connect with so many other women (and men) who are going through similar stuff. All the best to you, Susy, and thanks again for stopping by and sharing.

  18. Sannie Kirschner November 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Just saw your blog for the first time today. You are grand! I had a single mastectomy 31 years ago and still worry that it will come back. My friends and family don’t get it, but you do. I will keep following you and chime in, if that is okay.
    P.S.: Still can’t find a bra that works well.
    P.P.S.: The runners annoy me. How do you feel about them?

  19. Sannie Kirschner November 5, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Oh duh! I meant the Race-for-a-Cure runners. Not people who run, or walk (like me), or box (like you), or otherwise exercise to improve body and mind.

    • singleshot1 November 5, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Thanks for the note(s) Sannie and I figured you meant the pink runners/walkers. I’ve only done one breast cancer walk and that was sponsored by the American Cancer Society with all funds going towards research. I know that the pink events can be overwhelming (and sometimes maddening) but they can also be very inspiring for some BC survivors. We all hang on to what we can. If pink and pinkwalking works for some, then I think that’s awesome. I just want to make sure any efforts/fundraising that *I’m* involved with are for a cause that will contribute the majority of the funds towards research. We need a cure, not cute boas. ; ) Again, great to hear from a 31-year BC survivor – talk about inspiring! Please do continue to stop by and chime in!

  20. Mandi November 6, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Love it! Along with the pixie.

  21. teresa November 10, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Wow – you have just echoed my feelings perfectly! Everyone expects life to be “normal” again and continually tell me how wonderful it is that I am “cured”……I try to kindly explain to them that I am not and will probably never be “cured” – I live my life 3 months at a time – waiting for the visit with my oncologist to see whats up with my recent bloodwork. Its a mental torture I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – probably harder than the chemo, herceptin, double mastectomy and reconstruction all rolled into one! God Bless you for this article – it captured me and amused me at the same time. I was diagnosed 1 month before you and now feel so connected to your and “our journey!”

    • singleshot1 November 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Thanks so much for the note, Teresa, and yes, it looks like we’re “BC twins.” ; ) I don’t know if the mental torture/anxiety we all have about recurrence is worse than the double mastectomy, the chemo and the radiation for me (I haven’t had recon yet). But I do hate living with that constant feeling that a giant shoe is going to plummet out of the heavens and land on my brain, my bones, my liver or my lungs (the four likeliest spots for BC mets to occur). It does help me to get the fears and tears off my chest via my essays and blog posts. Ditto for connecting with other “BC buddies.” Boxing and running and all that help me deal with the stress, too (plus it makes me feel like I’m doing something). I was just asking people on Twitter if the anxiety ever goes away (I’ve got a 3-month check-up on Monday), and the answer for many was “no.” So I guess all we can do is appreciate what we have while we have it. Right now, I have glorious sunshine, a cat on my lap and Aretha singing in the background. Plus I won’t have to watch another political ad for years. ; ) Life’s good today. Tomorrow, we’ll just have to wait and see. Thanks again for writing and please keep me posted on how you’re doing.

  22. The Accidental Amazon November 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Hello, dahling! You look mahvelous! I think a lot of us have been trying to mop up our non-breast cancer lives of late, myself included. But at last, October is done, the election is done, and maybe we can all feel a little more sane again! Great to start catching up & to read such an enjoyable post. Rock on, girlfriend.

  23. theuppertrunk December 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I love your way with words. Please keep writing. From one BC girl to another, thank you.

    • singleshot1 December 12, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m a little spotty with my blogging, but it’s nice to have a place to vent when needed. ; ) Take care of yourself, UpperTrunk, and thanks so much for stopping by.

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