Monday, June 25, 2012

One year later

Today is one year since I first visited my OB for checkup of the lump in my breast, and today one year later I am here sitting at the chemo room at the Oncologist clinic for my every 3 week Herceptin treatment. Oh my God, so much has happened in one year!.

This weekend was the Relay for Life in Sunnyvale organized by the American Cancer Society and Olvido our captain did a fantastic job and despite that it was a small event we all had a great time!. Over the weekend and during the San Juan fiesta at Neus's house we remembered how last year at the same party I was really worried about my Monday visit to the doctor. I do not think any of us, included myself thought that visit was going to change me so much!.

What has happened to me during the last 12 months?, I have got a long list of activities that have kept me really busy: I have had a mayor surgery to remove my breasts, a small surgery for the chemo port, 2 MRI, 5 Muga scans, 1 PET scan, 1 CT scan, 1 biopsy, 4 AC chemo treatments, 4 Taxol chemo treatments, 28 sessions of radiation, 12 Herceptin treatments and an amazing total of over 50 doctor's appointments. I have got my last surgery set up for some time in December to do final breast reconstruction and hopefully take my chemo port out as well. And I have got no doubts that the list will grow on the coming years as I am watched very careful to make sure no sign of disease is anywhere near my body.

However that long list was much easier to do than expected because I have a huge support system that was with me all the way through:
  • My dear husband who has been next to me all the way through. He is the one who has seen me on the real bad days, days that I could not move from bed or days that I could not sleep because I was waiting for a test results. He has never complained and he has never made an excuse, he just held my hand through the process and I love him so much for being the nicest person ever. One of my oncologist nurses Mary is in love with him and she reminds me every time I go to the chemo room that she has never seen any husband being so supportive and always being there with me.
  • My beautiful son for being so dawn cute and for making me laugh every time I did not have the strenght to do it. Everytime I was down I just needed to look at him and I could just carry on.
  • My parents being able to spend as much as they did with us in the US, it made things so much easier!
  • My spanish family and friends who were all so far away but so close at the same time. I know how hard it was for my sister not being able to be with me during the process. I also realized during my last visit to Spain how much my cancer has affected some of my closest friends in Spain.
  • My Spanish friends in the US who have unconditionally being there for me and as Gema said my situation has made us being even much closer than before. The amount of lunches, dinners, parties and any other event that they did organize for me it was amazing!.
  • Fiona and Lorraine, My english and Irish support who have been the only ones that managed to get Alberto to agree to let them come to the Hospital or to the chemo room with me. I am so thankful for everything they did for me!. Fiona managed to fly from the UK almost every month to see me, she has always being next to me on all the important events in my life: wedding, when Ethan was born and this. Lorraine in my mind was like my sister, she check on me every day, she cook for me almost every weekend and she told me off when I did not want to do something...
  • Joan and her amazing treatment days that make me relax and help me recover so much faster.
  • Cheryl, Ainara and Eva who had been diagnosed with breast cancer before me and help me soooo much answering all my questions and help me as I went through the process. I called Cheryl the day I was told I had breast cancer and she told me: " you are much stronger than what you think, you can do it and you will come up much stronger and being much better person", this sentence has been in my head for 12 months.
  • Saint Chris moms group who gave me so many amazing and thoughtful presents and that have always being checking on me to make sure I was ok.
  • Many other friends who have been so supportive and helpful and have prayed so much for me!.
  • And of course my amazing group of doctors who made the process so much easier!.
During the past year I was fortunate to live close the life of people who were fighting for their lives or their childrens lifes and I got moved by the strenght that some people do have, I have always said that these people deserved all the respect of the world as they are the best of the best you can find.
I was really lucky to be able to share my story and process with people who were new diagnosed and help answer all the questions they had, it was nice to be able to help people through that horrible process.
I was also really happy to watch the creation of a group in Spain called "pelones peleones" and amazing group who helps so many people affected my cancer every day. This group is determinated to change some of the Spanish rules about some medical processes and they are making real big noises, it is a pleasure to see their progress!.
My "Oncochungas" is a group of cancer patiences in Spain, mainly breast cancer, we have got really close through Internet and we support each other on any question about the treatment or just support each other when one of us is having a bad day.
I was also really lucky to meet the group Latinas Contra Cancer and was amazed about the work they do to support all that people who have been diagnosed with cancer but they are not that afotunate to have a good supporting group around them. I am looking forward to work with them in the coming years and to hopefully being able to get more people to support them.
I was able to reconnect with family that I have not spoken in years. It was amazing to also connect with University friends who have been following my case very closely.

Last year was difficult but I have learned so much about me and the people who is around me. I am just happy to be here and given the chance to fight for my life, as some of my oncuchangas will say some people are not given that opportunity and I am just grateful to have it.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I wanted to share this with all of you as it could be very beneficial for some, specially the ones that have got high levels of anxiety and if you are like me since I finish the main cancer treatment that levels have been higher than I would like.

Around 8 or 9 years ago I had real issues while I was in the UK with dizziness, my friend Fiona will remember that after having lunch with me one day at work I almost passed out at the office and an ambulance had to take me to ER. The dizziness got worse and I thought there was something really wrong with me, I think I visited every doctor I could imagine in London and what I found out was that I was really healthy and the dizziness was just stress related and tension on the neck what was producing what they called neck vertigo. Well, eventually they went away with massage, yoga and some exercise but I was not sure if I was happy with the logic of why they did come.

Years passed by and after having several miscarriages they started coming again from time to time to the point that it make me go and see a doctor to talk about it. I found this wonderful doctor in San Jose who as soon as I told her what was happening she said....:"girl, your problem is that you do not breath properly", I thought she was joking but she gave me a really good medical explanation why I was dizzy. She make me lay down, gave me two books and ask me to set one in my stomach and the other in my chest and she said: " OK breath normally and lets see which one moves", it was clear that I breath with my chest. Chest breathing is associated with short,fast breathing that eventually and after some time auto ventilate you and that makes the mix in your body between oxygen and carbon dioxide to unbalance and come produce things like dizziness because there is no enough oxygen going to your head. When you are stress and you are used to breath short and fast the effect could be even extreme and could cause really bad dizziness.

She told me that it was really easy to correct even if it takes time but with exercises it will get corrected. She told me that I have to educate myself to breath with my belly again and I should start by consciously lay down twice a day and practise the slow breathing with the yellow pages book. Then every time I will remember to do conscious belly breathing and eventually my body will just do it. I have to say that it was really effective and if I ever get dizzy again (and I get eventually) I do more conscious breathing and it gets corrected.

So I become a walking breathing, I will breath while stopped at a traffic light. I will breath with my belly when watching TV or when I was at a stressful meeting and I could feel a bit dizzy. You should try it as it is really effective!.