Sunday, August 24, 2014

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Three and a half weeks past surgery, almost a full 7 weeks post-chemo, and 11 days since my last post and I am doing well. The follow up with my medical oncologist was uneventful. The pathology report showed clean margins on the tumor which measured a little over 1cm in the biggest dimension. There was a micromatastasis in the first sentinel lymph node but it is no cause for concern. Any others were likely zapped by the chemo which is what it was meant to do. Both of those results mean no more surgery and no more chemo. Onto radiation!

In the meantime, since my last post, a lot has been happening. The CPET went well, as well as could be expected especially if you are a rower who has ever done a VO2 max test. The technician set up the erg for me and we picked a 12' piece with shifts each 2' to step up the watts in a linear fashion. I made it a little over 30sec into the final shift, and from the data it looked like I had definitely peaked and plateaued (good for providing the desired information). If I heard correctly, I was on the order of 165% of my predicted (age/height/weight) capacity. I'll have to look up what it was 15 years ago, but only when I'm feeling particularly secure, I think. While the technology may have improved to measure and record data, the actual test wasn't any easier to do. With a plugged nose and having to breath in and out of a tube held to your head with a neoprene mask, not to mention more than a half dozen or electrodes, it was quite the set up. Sorry, no photo. I remembered too late. I'm not as fit, understandably, as I was before the cancer treatment, but the outcome of the erg piece honestly wasn't as grim as I had anticipated. 

My hair is definitely growing back now. The peach fuzzy hair I shaved off has been replaced by about 3mm of normal looking, dark hair on my scalp. On top of that, just as I was down to the last eyelash on each eyelid, the barest fringe of eyelashes became noticeable. At roughly the same time, the light hair on my face returned. I no longer feel weirdly naked and exposed. And, last but not least, my eyebrows have just started to grow, too - they look faintly colored in, but are more and more noticeable every day. Eyebrows certainly add or convey a lot of expression that is notable more for its absence. Still waiting on some nose hair to fill in and help with the filtering system, but this is an excellent start, for sure. It only continues to get better from here on. 

Post surgery, I have also resumed rowing and running - the week off following surgery was tough without exercise but definitely the right thing to do since I was physically tired and needed to protect the surgical sites, and I'm glad I toed the line. This week, in Amsterdam at the World Championships, I've been able to bike (in the gym or following practices along the race course, a fun but frightening peloton), run, and erg with some regularity which is nice. It certainly helps to have a physical release at these kinds of events. I'm tired at times, sure, but mostly that is a combination of jetlag, cellular recovery, and being a hardworking coach. 

I do have some really big new in the plus column for a change. I have a new job - I know, I'm dropping the bomb late in the post. I am now the Head Coach of Dartmouth Women's Rowing. Bet you didn't see that coming. Neither did I. But when I got a call about the position mid-July I thought why not explore the possibility. It turns out  liked what I saw on my interview, but tried to think practically about it being a viable option. Then, after what seemed like too long of a time to get a good phone call, it came in the form of an offer, and I said yes! Now, when I get back to the US, I will have two major tasks in front of me. Arranging for radiation to be moved to Hanover (that shift is actually underway) and getting up to speed seriously fast with Dartmouth - a new assistant coach, learning more on who my new team is, and finding a place to live among other tasks. 

Until then, back to the racing, writing some emails, and more when I get home. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Post Post Surgery

Once again, I am past due for a post so here is another very brief update. And, again, as last time, no news is good news. 

First off, feeling much less sore from the surgery. The swelling and general discomfort has been replaced by a somewhat normal looking bruised area on my right breast, as if a bruise can look normal. The steri-strips are still going strong on both incisions, there and just below my underarm. The stretches and exercises for shoulder mobility and to prevent tightening around the surgical areas have been effective if not poorly written. Give me a specific amount of time and number of reps, and I'm happy. The vagueness of 3-4' total, 15' per day, or "stretches for any time of day," really needs to be rewritten. 

Tomorrow, I am going in for a CPET,  a Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test designed to determine my baseline prior to radiation, or as it says in the pre test instructions it will "evaluate my exercise tolerance ... to maximal effort." Uh oh. Good news - it will be done on a bicycle, treadmill, or indoor rower. 

Thursday, meeting with my medical oncologist, and, I hope, reviewing the final pathology report which is due out on Wednesday (tomorrow). This is the precursor to getting set up for radiation treatment to begin in September 

Lastly, my hair is definitely on the return. I had nearly a true 1/4" of very wispy, extremely fine hair starting to appear on my head which is what I had expected timeline-wise. I did shave it off this morning, however, because it was fairly patchy and growing unevenly - not a good look. I'm ready, however, and will wait for the real stuff to start growing back. And, yet, at the same time, I am down to a total of 19 eyelashes evenly split along both upper lids. Fastest growing returns first.