Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can I get an Amen?!?!?!?!

Now I understand you wake up in the morning and you think to yourself, "I wonder if Courtney will do something ridiculous today?" We know about the pole dancing, the sky diving, the dogs... what next? Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, I do not disappoint.

Recently, I joined a gospel choir. As in robe-wearing, Jesus-lifting, not-so-white, gospel choir. But not just any choir. A choir composed entirely of breast cancer survivors. Yep... like 50 of us. We wear pink robes. What else? It's powerful and supportive and fun - even if it is a little different. For me at least.

See, I spent 12 years in Catholic school. I sing with my Cathedral Choir here in Atlanta. I'm used to ... how do I say it... "restrained" faith. Mindful prayer. Chants. Organs. It's the difference between singing in a choir loft in the back of the church to being right there up on the altar, if you get my drift.

I have never raised my hand in prayer, never shouted out in agreement when the priest spoke. Instead of lifting anything up, I bow my head. I sneered if there was clapping. Well, all that's out the window, folks.

My first rehearsal, we lifted ourselves up more than I could count. We trusted in Jesus more than I'd even thought of. Granted, there are a few white women in this group, but we're by far the minority. I am also the youngest member. This is something I'm used to by now. I'm not, however, used to singing without sheet music. This is all by ear. It's a whole new world for me. But I figured, "Hell, I'm in the South now - when in Rome..."

But I tell you, I walked into that room and was immediately embraced - physically and otherwise. I was welcomed. They promised to give me rhythm. And hope. They've done both. We share what we have in common, not what's different. Sure, we sing about Jesus. But we also sing about cancer, encouragement and love.

What is this magical group, you ask? It's called Shades of Pink. It's the only group of its kind in the country. And I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of it. This group has not only taught me the about the value of sisterhood, but of faith -in whatever you believe.

I have big news to share with you on this front, just wait -- it gets more ridiculous. You'll just have to keep reading.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

State of the Union

Today is September 11th. Some of you may remember my entry written last 9/11. (For those of you who cannot quote my blog by date - and really, who can't? - Here it is)

A year ago today I finished active treatment for breast cancer. 1 year already. Wow. I say active treatment because I'm still very much in treatment. I see a doctor or a nurse every month for my clinical trial, I take drugs, I have side effects. For those of you who might think that cancer's over once treatment is done, here's a little insight. (I swear, I tried not to make that sound snarky... don't think I succeeded.)

1 year after treatment...

My hair is still uncomfortably short. Still VERY curly. Still looks like Ronald McDonald. Now approaching an odd mullet stage. Still brown - although I've started a gradual step down approach to becoming blond again.

My eyes are still a little off. I can thank chemo for giving me astigmatism, now I can thank Tamoxifen for continual effects on my eyesight. For those of you who don't know, I was already pretty damn blind. Didn't know it could be worse.

My back is still a problem. We're not quite sure exactly why, but doctors credit the lack of estrogen to bone issues and chemo and tamoxifen to disc problems.

I am in menopause. Still. Will be for a few more years, thanks to my clinical trial. With that comes hot flashes, sleep problems and a spare tire that I can't seem to get rid of.

I am still 30 pounds too heavy. Although the mere fact I've done the whole menopause thing and not GAINED weight makes me happy... but I've now bought fat girl pants for a few seasons now and it's uncalled for.

My joints ache all the time. That's tamoxifen. Every morning when I wake up, it's like I'm walking on pegs for a while. I can't sit still for too long. I'm constantly stretching. Awesome.

My big toe has finally grown out from when I almost lost it... 14 months ago.

I bruise way too easily. This is a common complaint after treatment.

I am sensitive to the sun. If I'm out in it for too long, I get itchy rashes all over.

I take 5... count 'em five... pills every day.
Tamoxifen - hormone therapy
Ambien - for sleep issues
Effexor - for the hot flashes
Prescription Anti-Inflammatory - For the back
Muscle relaxer - also for the back

Once we get my back under control, I might be lucky enough to only take 3 pills a day.

I go to the doctor once a month for a shot that keeps me in menopause. I usually can't sit comfortably for a day or so after it.

Cancer is still a part of my everyday life.