Monday, August 13, 2018

Physical Therapy Has Begun

It's been 3 1/2 weeks since my double mastectomy, and I still have a drain in.  I hate it.  It's more and more painful every day, it's limiting my recovery since I can't do the stretches I need to on that side, keeping me stuck in button-up or zip-up shirts, and I won't be able to start radiation until it's out.  I've been in surprisingly good spirits throughout this whole cancer mess, but this drain has me weepy, depressed, and angry.

Despite the stupid, hated drain, I've started my physical therapy appointments.  Usually those don't begin until after all drains are out, but my range of motion was limited enough that my surgeon wanted me to go ahead and start now.  I'm supposed to begin radiation at the end of the month, and without some intense physical therapy, I won't be able to get into the position needed.

I saw my physical therapist for the first time last week (other than the initial measuring appointment pre-surgery), and she said I have significant cording on the right (where all my lymph nodes were removed), and am very tight on the left, where scar tissue has formed.  I have 3 PT appointments this week, 3 next week, and 2 for each of the 4 weeks after that.  They'll continue during radiation.

My first PT appointment was torture - and the therapist used that word before I could.  I don't think I was capable of speech at that point.  I was crying.  My sister, who was watching, was crying.  The therapist was teary-eyed.  My therapist advised me to take a prescription painkiller before all of my future appointments.

Part of PT is massage.  Not the relaxing Swedish massage you willingly pay for, but massage to break up scar tissue and stop my chest wall from fusing to the muscle underneath.  I do an at-home version every morning and night, and Jamie has been helping me with that when he's home.  My morning and evening routines now include emptying the drain; chest wall massage; removal, washing, and reapplication of silicone scar strips; exercises/stretches; and lotioning to keep my skin healthy.  It takes a good 20 minutes or so each time.  And my therapist added 2 new exercises today, so let's just up that to an even 30.

I like my therapist, I really do.  I told her today that I appreciate what she's doing even though I really don't like her while she's doing it.  I know all of this will help.  And I can do it.



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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Recovery

I'm recovering.

The day of surgery is a bit of a blur now.  We checked in early in the morning, and I changed into a gown and waited to meet the various doctors and nurses who would be involved in the surgery.  Whitney, my PA, had to draw on me; we joked about her drawing some cute doodles, but it turns out they get in trouble if they do that.  Too bad, because it would lighten the mood a bit.  My IV hurt, but I don't remember anything after they started to wheel me back toward the surgery room.  I remember saying goodbye to Jamie, but that's the last thing until I woke up in recovery.  Recovery is a blur, as well.  They kept asking me if I felt any pain, which I thought was ridiculous, so I think I answered, "It hurts" every time.  I don't remember the ride to my room, either, though I remember when we entered, because it looked a lot like the rooms I gave birth in.  (Same hospital.)

I spent just over 24 hours in the hospital, including pre-op prep time.  After surgery they kept compression wraps on my legs and I had nurses coming in to check my vitals and drains often.  Jamie got a decent night's sleep, but I didn't.

Recovery at home has been difficult, though made a lot easier by my Mom, who has been here for a week and a half so far, with another few days to go.  She has done all of the cooking and cleaning, chauffeuring the kids, reaching anything I can't reach, helping me with the drains, getting dressed, adjusting pillows, anything needed.  Jamie and the kids have been fantastic, also.  I'm not able to lift my arms above my shoulders, and they make sure I don't need to.  Jamie has helped me shower and get dressed, has emptied my drains... not what he expected, I'm sure, when we promised, "For better or for worse, in sickness and in health."  Cancer is a true test of love.

I've had less of an adjustment looking at my Bride of Frankenstein chest than I thought I would.  I have a long horizontal scar on either side of my chest, nearly meeting in the middle and wrapping partly around my sides under my arms.  The incisions/scars are covered with dermabond still, and are pinched and shiny and will be so for quite a while.  I still have some swelling in my chest and under my arms.  My entire chest and upper arms are sore/tingly/painful/numb/tight all at once, and it's extremely uncomfortable . I've been using tramadol for pain control and am down to 1-2 per day.  Dr. Miggins says the numbness will stay the rest of my life, but I'm hoping the other (painful) sensations subside.  My range of motion is still limited, though I've done my exercises religiously, so she's going to send me to physical therapy early.  (She usually waits until all drains are out.  My first 2 drains came out at day 5, but my 3rd one is still in.)  I have cording/scar tissue in my chest and under my arms, and without physical therapy I may not be ready for radiation on time.

We got the pathology back.  I had a great response to chemotherapy with regards to the cancer in my breast, with less than 5% of the tumor remaining in any of the cells.  There was some residual DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), also, but chemo generally doesn't work on that, anyway.  12 lymph nodes were removed, and 5 had cancer present.  The size of the largest was 9mm, and there was also an "extranodal extension" (reaching out of the cancer) of less than 1mm.  (So it didn't get very far out of the lymph nodes.)  So the lymph nodes didn't respond as well to the chemo, but ER/PR positive cancer like mine doesn't respond as well to chemo in the first place, anyway, so that's not surprising.  The plan was always radiation for me based on my initial diagnosis, so the surgical pathology doesn't change anything.

So - next steps:

I should be notified about physical therapy soon.  I'll be going 2-4 times a week until they don't think I need it anymore.  That will help me get my range of motion back, and it's important to get my full range of motion back before starting radiation.  After radiation it's much harder to regain anything further.

I have 1 drain still in place - the one under my arm, where the lymph nodes were.  (The 2 from my chest cavity have been removed.)  When it starts draining less than 30ml a day for 2 consecutive days, I'll go in to have it removed by Dr. Miggins's nurse, April.  My physical therapy will ramp up in intensity after that.  After that drain removal appointment, I won't go back to see my Surgeon until my follow-up appointment in 4 months.

I see my MedOnc (her replacement, actually) next week on Thursday.  We'll go over the pathology and discuss next steps.  Dr. Miggins thinks it's highly unlikely I'll need any further chemotherapy, so we should be talking about hormone therapy.  That would most likely start after radiation and either be a daily pill for 10 years, or a daily pill and monthly injection for 10 years.  Both options help to prevent recurrence and are available to me since my cancer is hormone positive.

I see Dr. Arzu, my Radiation Oncologist, on August 14th.  We'll discuss radiation and set up the placement appointment.  Radiation will start when school starts, at the end of August/beginning of September, as long as I'm able to physically get into the position needed by then.  Radiation will be every weekday for 6 weeks.

So for now I'll continue to empty my drain twice a day, do my exercises, and try to stop losing weight.
       


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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Surgery Is In 36 Hours

My mastectomy is in 36 hours.

A bilateral mastectomy with full (right side) axillary lymph node dissection.  And no reconstruction, at least for now.

I'm going to wake up on Friday after the 4-5 hour surgery with no breasts, no lymph nodes under my right arm, and long scars across my chest where my 32DDs used to be.

My body will never be the same.  Ever.  For the rest of my life, I will look and feel different.  Even if I have reconstruction in a year (after I heal from radiation), my body won't look like mine.  Every hug and cuddle from here on out will feel different.  I'm not going to fit in clothes like I used to.

I never considered myself a vain person until this whole cancer thing happened.  I realize now how very vain I am, because I cried when my eyelashes fell out.  I was proud of my eyelashes.  They were thick and long and curly, and I loved them.  Turns out I was vain about them.  And I'm going to miss my breasts.  They fed my children, looked good in and out of clothes, and I liked them.  And after Friday morning, I won't have them anymore.

I'm worried about what I'll see when I look down after surgery, or look in the mirror for the first time when the bandages come off.  I'll be bald (nearly) and breastless, covered with scars, and I'm afraid I won't feel feminine or attractive.

There's a song by Plumb that I've really loved lately, and I repeat the refrain when I need the reminder.  And I've needed the reminder a lot lately.  Here are the lyrics, and a link to the song:

Beautifully Broken by Plumb


Every tear, every doubt
Every time you've fallen down
When you're hurting, feeling shame
When you're numbing all your pain
When you've lost your way
And feel so far away

You're not


You're beautifully broken
And You can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
You're worthy
Beautifully broken

Every fear of being loved
For who you are no matter what
When you're stumbling, with each step
And you're haunted by regret
And the darkness closes in
Just listen

You're beautifully broken
And You can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
You're worthy
Beautifully broken
You're beautifully broken (beautifully broken)
You're beautifully broken

Oh, the God who made the stars
Is the God that made your heart
And He's holding you right now
He can heal the broken parts
And make beauty from the scars, the scars
Beautiful scars!

You're beautifully broken
And You can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
You're worthy
You're beautifully broken
And You can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
You're worthy
You're beautifully broken (You're beautifully broken)
Beautifully broken (You're beautifully broken)
You're beautifully broken


Surgery is in 36 hours.  And that surgery is going to remove the cancer from my body and get me another step closer to being done with all of this.

I can do this.




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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Chemo Worked

I had my post-chemo ultrasound on Thursday, and...

There was NO CANCER there to be measured.  They had a hard time finding the biopsy clips in my breast and lymph node.  The tumor bed (scar tissue, basically) could be seen, but nothing measurable.

That is an amazing response to chemo!

I grinned when the radiologist told me the news, and then started crying when I came back to the waiting room to let Jamie know the results.  Chemo was hard.  It'll take me some time still to recover from it, but it was worth it.

Jamie and I met with my PA and Surgeon this morning (love them!) to go over the results and discuss my upcoming surgery.

On July 20th, I'll have a bilateral mastectomy and complete (right side) axillary lymph node dissection.  This means that both my breasts will be removed - tissue and skin, but no underlying muscle - along with all the lymph nodes in my right arm.  Dr. Miggins will make me as flat as possible both for ease of radiation after, and so that I'll have an easier time living with being flat for the next year/year and a half until reconstruction can take place.

We discussed the possible complications from surgery, what aftercare will look like, and what my lymphedema risk is.  I ordered a lymphedema bracelet to wear (no blood pressure cuff, blood taken, or injections given in that arm for the rest of my life), but can hold off on ordering a sleeve unless I develop actual lymphedema in my arm.  Surgery will take 4-5 hours on that Friday, and I'll go back for a post-op appointment about a week and a half later.  We should have the surgical pathology results at the time.  I was also given referrals to a couple of reconstructive surgeons.  I'll set up appointments with them pre-surgery to see who I like and what their recommendations are for me for reconstruction post radiation, and then won't see them again until after radiation is complete.

Yes, radiation is still a go, even with the great response to chemo.  The reason is the same as that for continuing to take all of my (right arm) lymph nodes - to give me the best chance of a long, healthy life with no breast cancer recurrence.  I'm young and my oncology team wants to do everything they can for me.  I'm good with that.

On to phase 2!


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Quilt

I've received a few different blankets while undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the one I'm going to tell you about is one of the most special gifts I've ever received.

When my sister-in-law, Natalie, heard about my diagnosis, she put the call out to my siblings, parents, nieces & nephews, and grandparents, and collected quilt squares from everyone so that she could put this together.

I love it.




Here it is, from left to right, starting at the top:










You can tell they know me well - not only can you see music notes on there, but my favorite quotes, Harry Potter squares, and even a nod to Starbucks.  My family is amazing. 



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Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Family Outing

I still have a few days to go before my next (last!) chemo, so I'm feeling "great!"  To celebrate, we had a family outing today that was completely unrelated to my health.  It was so nice to get out of the house and not be headed to the hospital or a doctor's office!

Out first stop was Ahi Sushi, where we blew through 5 rolls.  Luckily, the kids are fans of both sushi and the use of chopsticks, so a good time was had by all.  My appetite is still low, but I really enjoyed lunch.

Next, we swung by Blendin for coffee, and I got a delicious iced caramel latte.  I finished that while we drove into Houston to the Galleria area, where we went to...

Crate & Barrel!  It had been at least 5 years, probably longer, since we had been there.  We browsed the entire store and picked up a few kitchen items before deciding to finally replace our decade-old water and juice glasses.  Jamie waited at the register for everything to be wrapped up while I watched the kids jubilantly ride the escalators.




After stowing our new glassware in the car, we headed over to Sprinkles and enjoyed cupcakes for a sugar kick before going down the street to...



Central Market, our favorite grocery store to browse.  (Yes, when you're in your 30's you have a favorite grocery store to browse.)  We walked the entire store, giving the kids and Jamie a chance to sample everything on offer.  We picked up some yummy cheeses and a baguette for dinner, chocolate croissants for breakfast, and plenty of other goodies as well.

Pretty peonies at Central Market


Now we're home and I've taken my painkiller and am resting my very tired body.  It was so, so nice to feel normal for the day.  I may not look like I used to and my energy may be low, but at least we're still able to go out and do some fun things as a family.  It reminded me that this cancer treatment stage won't last forever.  Chemo is almost done, surgery is coming up quickly, and then it's time for radiation.  I won't worry about reconstruction for another year and a half from now, but with chemo coming to an end, I'm finally able to see that there will be a time when my life does not revolve around treatment.  I'm ready to be me again - not the cancer patient version of me.  And I will be me again.  Today reminded me of that.  



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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Only One Chemo Left

I'm finally coming out of the fog after my third AC (chemo) a week and a half ago.  It seems like my entire life is chemo/appointments/recovery right now.

It's strange to think about actually finishing up and moving on to the next stage of treatment - surgery.  But that will be happening, which means my thoughts have been turning more and more to my upcoming mastectomy.  The plan right now is for it to be a bilateral/dual mastectomy with port removal.  Speaking more plainly, toward the end of July, both of my breasts will be amputated.

I don't know how much I can do to mentally prepare myself for the way my body will be changed by the surgery.  I'll be coming out of surgery flat (no reconstruction until 9-12 months after radiation), so I'll have a long horizontal scar where each breast used to be.  I'm also having all the lymph nodes removed from my right arm, so I'll have a long scar in my right armpit, and a scar where my port was removed from my chest.

I've had my breasts for a long time.  I'm used to them.  I'm used to the way they look, the way my clothes fit, the way my kids fit against me when we hug.  I like them just the way they are.

You know, except for the cancer.

But before all that, I have one chemo left!  My next appointment is on the 20th, and as long as my counts are good, I'll have my last chemo on June 21st.  Onward! 

BTW - with chemo brain, I post more often on Instagram and Twitter than in longer blog posts.  If you'd like more frequent updates, please follow me there (@trishwhimsy for both)!  


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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Chemo Tips

I have 2 AC infusions left to go.  By the time I recover from my last infusion, I'll have been through about 6 months of chemo.  I'm not looking forward to surgery, radiation, and reconstruction, but I can't wait to finish chemo!

For anyone who'll be going through chemo themselves, I'm hoping this can be helpful to you.  Feel free to email me for more info on specific products I've used. 

These are the things I've found most helpful during this process.  I'm leaving out the things you can't buy, because I think it goes without saying that supportive and loving family and friends are the number one thing you need to make it through.  Though for some people, maybe buying friends is an option.  Who knows?

I didn't use cold caps (which can lessen hair loss), but have used ice socks and ice mitts throughout chemo.  I have had absolutely no neuropathy, and my MedOnc is going to recommend that her other patients use them as well, since I've had such success.  I bought mine on Amazon; I think they're all similar.  Buy extra ice packs so you (or your chemo companion) can switch them out partway through each infusion.  My ice socks & mitts went on about 10 minutes before chemo started (but after the premeds) each time and stayed on until it ended, usually with 1 quick bathroom break.  They're miserable - especially the socks - but it's worth it to not have ended up with neuropathy.

I had someone with me for each infusion, but almost always preferred to zone out with something on my Kindle Fire.  I bought a 10 inch HD version and some good earbuds before starting chemo and it's been a lifesaver.  We have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime and I caught up on Doctor Who, rewatched (for the third time...) Parks & Rec, watched all of Psych...  I've used it during infusions, but also at home when I feel terrible and need to block out any outside stimulus.  You can also play games or read books on it.  I highly recommend a good tablet for chemo.  We call mine my Chemo Fire to differentiate it from my regular Fire or my Paperwhite.  I like Kindles.

Hard candies!  I found corn-free ones (I'm allergic), but have read that Jolly Ranchers are popular for most ladies.  Anytime my port was flushed when it was accessed, the saline tasted nasty, so the hard candies helped to cover that.  I went through 2-3 each infusion.

Saltines.  Jamie would bring something more substantial for him to eat while we were there, but I was usually feeling pretty cruddy and didn't want an actual meal.  Also, my hands were in huge ice mitts.  So he would feed me saltines so I'd have something in my tummy.  It worked.

A cozy blanket from home.  The kids (with my mom's help) made me a fleece blanket that I have had with me for each infusion.  I'm always cold because of the ice socks/mitts, so having that has been wonderful.  

A big water cup with a handle and flexible straw.  Mine is a hospital maternity gift we've had forever; it holds 32 ounces, so I know if I get through 2 of them a day I'm doing well with my water.  The handle and flexible straw make it easy to drink from whether I'm wearing ice mitts or simply feeling weak and cruddy.

At home, a comfy recliner with a side table.  I spend most of my recovery days in the recliner and the side table is full of my stuff - chapstick, Kleenex (with a trash can next to the table), prescription bottles, etc.  

Next to the recliner - an extension cord with all my chargers plugged into it.  Everything can reach the recliner so I don't have to worry about anything running out of juice.

Chemo hasn't been easy, but I've escaped some of the side effects that I was told I would get.  Granted, I still have 2 infusions left, but things have been "good" so far.  A few things that have helped:

A daily probiotic.  I've been taking one for a while - since before my diagnosis - and I think that has helped me escape the diarrhea and/or constipation that chemo normally causes.  I still get "chemo tummy" the day of an infusion (diarrhea) and take stool softeners to counter my pain killer's constipation side effect, but really haven't had any major issues.  I think the probiotic has really helped with that.  I use the Target (Up & Up) brand of the Culturelle Kids stir-in powder.  (It's corn-free.)

Multiple swishings every day of a baking soda & water solution.  Chemo (especially AC) can cause mouth sores, but I've swished 3-4 times a day with this solution and haven't had that problem.  (about 1 tsp baking soda in 20 oz of water.)  I also use a toothpaste (Tom's) that has both fluoride and baking soda in it.

Dark nail polish.  Other breast cancer patients had said that using dark polish during treatment was a way to protect your nails (a lot of times chemo causes them to fall off, develop sores underneath, etc.), so I got permission from my MedOnc to use it.  I'm alternated OPI Black Onyx and OPI Lincoln Park After Dark and have had no nail issues whatsoever.  I've lost my brows and lashes, but at least I still have pretty nails!

2 ACs to go, and then surgery will be toward the end of July.  I'll just keep trusting God and let Him handle this!



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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Delayed!

I met with my MedOnc yesterday.  Well, technically I met with my nurse and then a PA because my (pregnant) MedOnc had an appointment herself.  I'm hoping she won't be put on bedrest because (selfishly) I don't want to switch to a new doctor partway through my treatment.  And on a truly-I'm-a-nice-person note, I'd hate for anything to be wrong with her pregnancy, so bedrest wouldn't be good thing for her right now.

Nothing to report about the appointment itself.  I had no questions, got a couple medication refills, and then got my bloodwork done to make sure my counts were high enough for this week's chemo - AC #2.  (I wasn't worried since I'd had three weeks for my neutrophils to come up after my first infusion.)

I got a call a couple hours after my appointment, though.  It was the PA, letting me know that my neutrophils were 0.68.  That's the lowest they've ever been, and definitely below the 1.0 needed to get my chemo infusion.  I was told we'd delay for a week and go through the same routine next week - appointment & bloodwork on Wednesday with chemo (hopefully) on Thursday.  I held it together on the phone, and then started crying as soon as I hung up.

For the first time since my diagnosis, I feel like the cancer is winning.

I made it through 12 weeks of Taxol with flying colors - no neuropathy and minimal side effects, with an 82% reduction in the tumors and no delays in chemo.  (The lowest my neutrophils got was the last week - 1.01.)  I came into AC with my expectations high, so this is hard.  It feels like I've been in the ring with cancer, getting blow after blow in, and just got a strong right hook to the jaw, leaving my head spinning.  It's hard not to feel like this week's delay is going to allow the cancer a chance to start growing again.  I'm a cancer patient; my job is to power through treatment and keep killing the cancer.  If I'm not getting treatment, what am I doing?

When AC started as scheduled, I assumed everything would stay on track.  We made all of our summer plans - scheduled surgery, the kids' summer camps, my monthly Xolair shots, and even a couple out-of-town trips - around what I knew the "set in stone" treatment plan would be.  With chemo brain causing white noise to permeate my thoughts, having the calendar set helped me feel a lot more settled.  Now that chemo is being pushed back (which delays my other infusions, which may delay surgery, etc.), everything is up in the air again, and I'm back to realizing how little control over all of this I truly have.

Two things have helped me through this.

First, I have the most amazing family and friends in the world.  I have so many people praying for me and loving me that I know I'll get through this.  And I have an amazing husband and mom who both endured teary phone calls right after the delayed-chemo news, and both calmly told me that this wasn't a big deal - that I was strong, the cancer wasn't going to start growing again, and we'd just play everything by ear and be okay.

Second, Jamie and I have a playlist that has helped me through this entire process.  I've been tweeting out the songs periodically and then listing them on the right side of the blog.  Most, though not all, are by Christian artists, because knowing that God is in control is the most reassuring thing of all.  I like to think I'm in control of my life, but knowing I'm not - since I can make a mess of things so easily - puts me at peace.  He's got this.  That playlist will grow throughout treatment; we currently have about 235 songs on the list and are adding more all the time.  If you're going through anything difficult in your life, listen to some of the songs on that list.

Another week of regaining strength and neutrophils, staying away from anyone remotely sick, and trying not to lose weight.  I can do this!


Partway through chemo, with most of my lashes and brows gone!
(I have eyeliner and brow pencil on here.)


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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Personal Care During Chemo

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I've had to change a few things about my personal care routine.  My cancer is ER/PR positive, which means that it feeds on my hormones.  Therefore, eliminating anything I'm using that could mimic hormones is a good idea.  I also feel a lot better about using more natural products since I'm subjecting my body to more and more that is messing it up while treating the cancer.  #poisonwithapurpose

For anyone in the same boat, the most helpful thing I've found is to look for items that are free of parabens.  Here are the products I've been using and liking:


Burt's Bees Hydrating Eye Cream - Nice and light, but hydrating.  My skin is really dry from chemo, and this has been good. 
Acure Day Cream and Night Cream - They both smell good and sink right in - no greasy feeling, but leave my skin nicely moisturized. 
Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Foundation - This is really more of a tinted moisturizer.  I've worn this for years on top of my other moisturizer and love it.  It evens my skin tone out a little without feeling heavy like a traditional foundation, and has made my skin look the best it has ever looked, pre-chemo, at least.


Native deodorant - I've been using this for over a year and really like it.  It's a deodorant - not an antiperspirant, which took some getting used to.  It smells really good (I use the coconut-vanilla scent) and it's all natural.  (If you switch to an all natural deodorant, give it a few weeks before you  decide to give up on it.  Your body needs to detox from the aluminum-based antiperspirant you've probably been using, and you may smell funky until your body is used to the new stuff!) 
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream - This is a good intense moisturizer that I dab anywhere on my face that I need a little extra help.
Tom's toothpaste - I've used this for years and years.  I'm making sure to use one with both fluoride and baking soda in it right now since chemo can do a number on your teeth.  I can't stand the taste of artificially flavored toothpastes anymore.  I love Tom's.


Alba Botanica Coconut Rescue Bath & Shower Gel - I switched to this for my showers instead of the Bath & Body Works stuff I used to use (hello parabens!)  It comes in a huge bottle with a pump, is very moisturizing, and has a gentle, non-offensive scent, which is really nice when chemo has made me queasy.  There's a mango one I'd like to try post-chemo. 


Anti-b Antibacterial Shampoo - great for when your hair is falling out and chemo has caused folliculitis, irritating all the follicles and giving you red bumps all over your scalp.  It has a slightly medicinal scent, but the lemon oil in it helps to cover that.  Very soothing for a balding scalp.
Cetaphil Baby Shampoo - Lightly scented and contains calendula; soothing and moisturizing when you're going bald.


Yes to Coconut Cleansing Stick - This has coffee and coconut in it, is moisturizing and scrubby, and is really easy to use in the shower when you're tired but need to scrub your face.
Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser - I've used this for years.  Very, very gentle.  It's great to use in the shower during chemo, especially, because you can use it gently on your eyes.  When your lashes are falling out it's nice to be able to wash your eyelids and this does a great job.

I've had to switch all of my makeup, as well, but won't go into that.  I've found that the more natural the product, the harder it is to find and the more expensive it is.  But it's worth it to get stuff that will be better for my body and won't help to feed the cancer!




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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Done With AC #1

It's day 6 after my first AC infusion, and I'm finally feeling somewhat alive.

I don't remember a whole lot from Thursday, day 1.  I had 5 premeds in my IV, all of which had something to do with keeping nausea at bay, and a couple of them made me drowsy.  I nodded off during chemo and slept the rest of the day.  

I felt okay Friday, just sleepy and a little sick.  Saturday was a lot worse, and Sunday even worse than that.  I felt really sick.  I took Zofran around the clock as my MedOnc had instructed, but didn't feel any better until Tuesday, when I was able to skip a dose.  Jamie went back to work today - Wednesday, day 6 - and I took the kids to school.  And then went back to sleep for 4 hours.

On the bright side, I don't have to get the Neulasta injection to boost my white blood cells (WBC), so I don't have to deal with the horrific bone pain that is reported from it.  My infusions are 3 weeks apart, so my MedOnc is okay with waiting to see if my WBC will come up without the injection.  And the Zofran kept the nausea under control well enough that I just felt sick - I didn't actually get sick.

Now I have until May 3rd before my next infusion.  2 weeks to feel better and get my WBC back up!  



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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Holidays When Living With Breast Cancer

Today is Easter.  It has been a good day, filled with our usual traditions - a scavenger hunt for the kids' Easter baskets, an egg hunt in the backyard, a big breakfast and a yummy dinner. 

But breast cancer and chemo have necessitated some changes from previous years.  I had to take several breaks when filling the Easter baskets, because Taxol has left me very, very tired.  Breakfast was a thawed, previously baked pastry because I didn't have the energy/stamina to bake anything fresh, and Jamie made the bacon and eggs.  Dinner is being made mostly by Jamie, and the parts I contributed were done with me seated at the table.  I also had to skip church this morning because my neutrophils last week were at the lowest yet -  1.02 - and I can't risk getting sick.

The biggest change, though, is in my mindset.  It's subtle, but it's definitely there.  It's the faint whisper that there's a chance this could be my last Easter.  My last time to see the kids' excitement over Easter baskets and egg hunts.  My treatment is working - I know that from the ultrasound I had a few weeks ago.  But I also know that cancer is unpredictable and ruthless, and I will be living with this for the rest of my life, whether there is NED (No Evidence of Disease) at the end of this treatment or not.  For the rest of my life, I'll be getting checkups to see if the cancer has metastasized - spread - to other areas of my body.  I'll have to legitimately question every ache and pain in case it's a symptom of the breast cancer spreading to my bones/brain/liver/lungs.

There are so many stories of women who have gone through successful treatment and gone on to live long, healthy lives free of cancer.  And there are equally as many women who have had their cancer return months or years later, and have had their lives cut much too short.

I'm reminding myself every single day of 2 Corinthians 5:7 - "For we walk by faith, not by sight."  Whether this is my last Easter, or just the last one that I'll have to celebrate while undergoing chemo, I know God has a plan for my life.  And he has a plan to take care of Jamie and the kids whether I'm here to try to manage it for him or not.

Please pray that my neutrophils are above 1.0 on Thursday.  If they are, I'll be finishing Taxol Thursday and then hopefully starting AC - the "Red Devil" chemo - the following Thursday.  Here's to killing the cancer and making the most of every moment, month, and year I have left!       



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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Visit With Dr. Saleem

I only have 3 Taxol infusions left, so it was time for another visit with my MedOnc, Dr. Saleem.  

It was a good appointment!  We went over my ultrasound results from last week, and I learned that I've had an 80-83% response (so far) to chemo!  That is fantastic news!  She's really pleased with how my body is handling Taxol.  Most of her patients have the same achiness/pain/fatigue that I have, but earlier in the process.  I'm also still showing no signs at all of neuropathy in my hands or feet, which is unusual and really welcome news to us both.  If you have to go through this, I highly recommend using the ice mitts & socks, as they seem to be working for me.

Because my neutrophils were so low last week (1.05), Dr. Saleem had me do my bloodwork today so that I'd know whether or not I even needed to come in tomorrow for chemo.  I got a call about an hour after I left, and my nurse said that I'm a "walking antibiotic" - my neutrophils today were 1.5!  That's the highest they've been in weeks!  Still below the "standard" for a healthy immune system, but really good for me!  Chemo will proceed tomorrow as planned.  That leaves 3 Taxol infusions before I start 12 weeks of AC.

I was able to get out this morning before my appointment (coffee with a friend after school drop-off), then had my appointment and ran to the grocery store afterward.  I'm exhausted now (and still need to pick up the kids later), but it was nice to get out and feel semi-normal.

The face of a "walking antibiotic"

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Taxol is Doing Its Job!

I've had 8 of my 12 Taxol treatments, and my MedOnc was pleased with my progress last time she saw me; she couldn't feel the tumor when doing a physical exam!  One area of concern, though, - to me, not her - is that I've had some pain in my ribs, near the initial tumor site.  I had an ultrasound this afternoon to check on that area, and to see what kind of progress I've made with chemo.

The Methodist Breast Center has the best waiting room music.  Among other songs, they played "Weird Science," "Come On, Eileen," "I Love Rock & Roll," and "It's Raining Men."  They were rocking some Bangles as I left.

Nothing in the pain area showed up on the ultrasound, so that's reassuring.  And in even better news, the ultrasound showed a "significant decrease" in the size of the largest affected lymph node, and my largest (of three) tumor and gone from 3.6cm - on ultrasound - to 1.2cm!  That's fantastic improvement for an ER (estrogen receptor) positive breast cancer on chemo, only 8 infusions in!  

Keep those prayers coming!

I realized in the waiting room that I had dressed in #chemochic - a beanie, button-down, leggings, and comfy boots.  My chemo fuzzy brain is now equating all medical appointments/procedures with chemo infusions.


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