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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