So, It’s October again…We all know what THAT means:  PINK EVERYWHERE!  It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I’m gonna give you an update of what post-cancer life is like almost 3 years out from my diagnosis.  October is also Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness Month, which is another thing close to my heart that has touched my life- but WHAT ELSE is there to this glorious month of October?

I did some research, and am providing all of you with a very long list of all things to be aware of in October, but first, my update:

October 30, 2017 is the date when I received my diagnosis of breast cancer.  I’ve been pretty open with my story from diagnosis through the end of active treatments, but a person’s cancer journey doesn’t end when the active treatments do.  There’s a period of peace that you go through, when there is no treatment, you’ve conquered chemo without complications, kicked cancer’s ass, got through radiation, and you can relax for a while- THEN- at least for me- you live your life with a slight tinge of anxiety that any little lab result that’s different, or any feeling that’s new could mean that the cancer’s come back.  It seems crazy, especially when in my case I had a very cut and dry early stage cancer diagnosis- but let me tell you- where there was cancer- there will forever be anxiety, however slight it may be.

In February of 2019 I went in for my three-month check with the oncologist and immediately got sent down for an ultrasound of my liver!  My first thought:  WTF?!  My oncologist, God love him, is EXTREMELY cautious and tests and over tests (which is a good thing, but adds to my anxiety), so it turned out that my liver enzyme levels had risen above the normal range, and we needed to find out if something {cancer} was up.  It turns out that at 47 years old, I had suddenly developed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  How fun.  Now, I’ve been overweight for the majority of my adult life, but until I had cancer, I had NO health issues…SO- now I had fatty liver, so I booked a consult with a gastroenterologist to talk about it, and how to deal with it.  At the consult, I point-blank asked if chemo could have caused this to happen, and his answer:  YES.  Well, fuck. 

After that appointment with the gastroenterologist, I changed my diet to add more liver friendly foods (beets, avocado, lemon, cruciferous veggies, etc.), cut out alcohol (which killed me because we were going to Las Vegas in a few months, and I have a “drink gin & tonics all day while playing slots” issue, lol), and was exercising more.  The next time I had lab work done, my liver enzymes were at normal levels.  That was the last time…

In the past year, my liver enzyme levels have been rising, which culminated in me having a chest/abdomen/pelvis CT scan in July of this year.  Talk about anxiety!  In the week leading up to the scan, I was absolutely convinced that I had metastatic breast cancer, and was freaking the fuck out.  Thankfully, the scan showed that all of my major organs, etc. were all normal, and my liver showed fatty infiltration with areas of sparing-There ARE actually areas of my liver that are healthy and unaffected, Thank Goodness.  The latest update comes as of this month (lab result wise, because I see my oncologist on Friday of this week):  My liver enzyme levels are improving, and have gone down somewhat.  What made this change?  Well, since May I’ve lost 25lbs, I think that is probably the biggest factor, but I’ve just been doing what I can to make myself as healthy as I possibly can- because each of us is responsible for doing the work to make ourselves healthy in every way-it doesn’t just come from a doctor’s office.  And here’s the point of my update:  To inform you all on my ongoing journey, of course, but to re-enforce the point that we need to take care of ourselves in order to move forward in the best way that’s meant for each of us.  We have to live our lives in ways that are healthy: physically, mentally and emotionally, so that when the periods of anxiety come (and oh yeah, they’ll come!) we can address them, and not let the that anxiety overtake us.

So, as promise, here’s that big list of all things October!  Be good to each other!

Jennifer Angarano Ricci is a wife, mother & creative soul-searcher.  She is a musician, artist, and baker, and runs her home business Baked By Jen, in addition to running her local community theater group.  She loves to sing, create and help others and tries to connect all three passions whenever possible.

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