Coping With Chemo Brain

Chemo brain is a condition that many cancer patients deal with during and often after treatment. Not only can chemo treatments cause this condition, but also radiation, surgery, and immunotherapy. Being a cancer patient that has gone through 16 chemo treatments, 25 radiation treatments, and 5 surgeries, all within about 22 months, I can absolutely say that in my case, all of these factors combined took a toll on my physical and mental health as well as my memory and my ability to think clearly. My last surgery was one year ago, and I still have memory issues, but I have learned how to live with it by making a few changes in how I organize my life. This subject is something that I have been reluctant to write about, but now that my cancer has returned, I feel that it is time to post an entry about my experience so I will do that soon.

by Stephen Ornes

Many cancer patients have problems with memory or thinking that can linger for years after treatment. The cause is a mystery, but new tactics are helping many people cope with its effects.

BEFORE MEGAN-CLAIRE CHASE received her first round of chemotherapy in October 2015, her oncologist told her that side effects of cancer treatment could include some memory loss. “They said, ‘You might get a little forgetful. It will probably be minimal. Don’t freak out,’” she says. Chase, who was single, 39, and working in radio advertising in Atlanta, didn’t think much about it at the time. She was more concerned with treating the tumor and managing other unwelcome complications that cancer introduced to her life.

Chase had already seen her routines upended. A month earlier, she had discovered a large mass in her left breast and unusual bruises nearby. A diagnostic mammogram and biopsy led to a diagnosis of stage IIA invasive lobular breast carcinoma, which originates in the milk glands of the breast and invades nearby tissue before spreading to lymph nodes. Over the next few months, she would undergo 16 treatments with chemotherapy and 33 with radiation. During that time, she noticed a diminishing ability to think, reason and remember things.

She first noticed a problem with memory after her second round of chemo, when she was already feeling nauseated and losing her hair. She had gone to a store to pick up groceries. When she arrived home, she reached to take her purse from the car—only to find it wasn’t there. She stood, completely astonished, for a few seconds. Then she panicked and raced back to the store parking lot, where she found the purse untouched in the shopping cart.

“That was my first moment of dealing with chemo brain,” Chase says. She hadn’t simply forgotten the purse; this experience was something more than forgetting. “I literally had no memory of it. It’s not like I got stressed and forgot and remembered. It was just gone, like a void. It’s deeper than forgetting.” She suspects the only reason she realized the purse was gone was because she physically reached for it and had nothing to grab, not because she remembered leaving it behind.

The bedeviling, exasperating phenomenon that Chase describes goes by many names. Chemo brain. Brain fog. Mental fog. Chemo fog. Researchers who study it and doctors who see it in their patients call it cancer-related cognitive impairment, or CRCI. (Less often, it’s labeled cancer-related neurocognitive dysfunction, or CRND.)

Up to three-quarters of people treated for cancer experience cognitive problems that can be described as CRCI. Symptoms include forgetting words, names and dates. Some patients report being unable to follow conversations or control their emotions. Once-avid readers find themselves unable to maintain focus to the end of a chapter. “If they do get through it, it may be hard to remember what they just read,” says Natalie Kelly, a neuropsychologist at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California, who works with patients to identify problems with CRCI and map out coping strategies. Chase says that soon after her scare at the store, she became much less efficient at multitasking, which was a critical part of her job. She began to doubt herself.

For more than a third of people treated for cancer, CRCI symptoms persist for months or even years after treatment, in varying degrees of severity. In some cases, says Kelly, the cognitive troubles may subside, but stress can exacerbate symptoms. Serious symptoms are most often associated with chemotherapy, but chemo isn’t the only culprit. Patients who undergo radiation, surgery or immunotherapy have similarly reported cognitive difficulties.

CRCI poses a formidable puzzle. It has no formal diagnosis or treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Researchers don’t yet know which patients are most vulnerable to CRCI, or why cancer treatment triggers CRCI at all. “It’s a complex problem,” says neuroscientist and cancer biologist James Bibb at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine and O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Every cancer is different, every patient is different, and every treatment is different.” Not surprisingly, every experience with CRCI is also different.

Yet there are recent signs of progress in understanding and treating the condition. “There’s a noticeable interest in what we can do to limit the neurological effects that some patients experience,” says Bibb. Researchers began to seriously study CRCI starting in the 1990s, says clinical neuropsychologist Nicolette Gabel at University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor. The past two decades have brought increased attention to CRCI, not only among patients who share stories of lost keys and missing words, but also among clinicians and researchers looking for its biological causes and developing successful coping strategies.

“It’s not an uncommon problem,” Kelly says, adding that adopting lifestyle modifications—especially with the help of a trained cancer rehabilitation specialist—may compensate for the daunting mental challenges posed by CRCI.​

Living Longer, Facing CRCI

Bibb says the increased attention on CRCI is a byproduct of significant progress in treating cancer and keeping people alive longer. The overall five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with cancer in 1980 was about 50%, according to data from the National Cancer Institute. By 2017, that overall rate had climbed to nearly 68%. Experts usually attribute the rise to early detection, improved treatment and smoking cessation. They also caution that the overall statistic smooths over important details. Survival rates are lower in Black populations and vary by cancer site. Dismal pancreatic cancer survival rates have barely budged in 50 years, while prostate cancer’s five-year survival rate is now close to 100%, for example.

What’s clear is that people are living longer with cancer. As a result, they are more likely to grapple with long-term effects of the disease and its treatment, including CRCI. “Cancer itself used to be the main issue, but now survivability and survivorship have become equally important,” says Bibb.

For Chase, the missing purse was the first of many instances she chalks up to CRCI. During chemotherapy and then radiation treatment, the problems snowballed. “I couldn’t remember how to do certain tasks at work that used to be second nature,” she says. “I had an inability to participate in conversations with people at work, and I wouldn’t remember full conversations with my mother. She would say, ‘You told me that 15 minutes ago.’” The mounting uncertainty led her to leave her job in radio advertising and find less stressful work.

Chase’s experiences also drove her to develop coping strategies, sometimes with the help of her therapist, who was an oncology social worker. “Any cancer patient needs a therapist,” she says. “Mine has the knowledge of what a cancer patient goes through and can provide guidance to help.” She also started writing a blog, called Life on the Cancer Train, to keep a record of her experiences and used social media to reach out to other people with CRCI to collect anecdotes for her writing. A common thread emerged among all the stories she heard: Everyone with CRCI suffered acutely from self-doubt, she says. How can a person trust their own mind when it keeps failing them?

Chase began to write down everything she needed to get done and set reminders on her phone. She also read long magazine articles out loud to herself. “It forced me to read words and concentrate,” she says. At first, she could only manage a few minutes of reading aloud, but over time her attention span grew. “It really helped strengthen my short-term memory.” Eventually, years after her treatment regimen had ended, she reached a point where she no longer had to write everything down. (“I still write down the super-important stuff.”)

Chase says she received little guidance from her health care providers about how to navigate the post-treatment fog. “It’s wonderful that they kept me alive,” she says. “But after, I felt like they just threw me out in the middle of the ocean with no life jacket.”​

Finding Answers

Gabel, at University of Michigan Health, says Chase’s experience is common. She recently led an analysis of existing studies and surveys focused on CRCI, and the group published its findings​ in Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports in July 2021. The analysis revealed that many different symptoms that patients notice can be measured, and that these symptoms are often noticed as treatment progresses. The analysis also reported that patients can become distressed when they notice changes in the way they think, reason or behave.

“Educating patients about the risk for CRCI needs to be more of a strategic implementation at the beginning of cancer care,” says Kelly at City of Hope. “With more survivors, which is wonderful, there are more people living with the effects of treatment who want to understand how to live their best lives and move forward with their goals, even in the midst of experiencing cognitive issues.”

Many hospitals and cancer centers offer resources. These may include consultation with a trained neuropsychologist after treatment ends. The consultation usually begins with an evidence-based evaluation that can help guide the creation of an individualized treatment plan. The evaluation helps identify and measure the severity of cognitive impairment, including learning and memory tasks.

“We identify any factors that may contribute to CRCI,” says Gabel. “What makes it harder for patients? Insomnia, pain, other factors can get in the way.”

The resulting plan, based on evidence from existing studies, may include cognitive rehabilitation, in which patients work with trained therapists on interventions that can help create compensatory strategies to improve mental skills. (The same interventions are often used to help people with traumatic brain injury, stroke or other neurological impairments.) It may also include recommendations for lifestyle adjustments that could help reduce stress, which is known to trigger the effects of CRCI.

Exercise may help. Studies have shown that people with cancer who exercise regularly report less fatigue. More recent investigations suggest that exercise may help ease some CRCI symptoms, though more research is needed. Other studies have suggested improvements from cognitive behavioral therapy or from mindfulness-based activities. (See “Strategies to Manage Cognitive Impairment” below.)

Although no medications have been approved by the FDA to treat CRCI, recent studies have investigated whether psychostimulants (like methylphenidate) or anti-dementia drugs may offset the symptoms. These studies have reported promising results, but they are limited by small numbers of participants and inconsistent study parameters. They don’t reveal, for example, which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment. More evidence is needed before clinicians can recommend specific drug treatments, says Kelly.


Strategies to Manage Cognitive Impairment

Cancer-related cognitive impairment has no definitive diagnosis or treatments, but patients can use techniques to better cope with the condition.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 17 million people in the United States are living with cancer or have been diagnosed in the past. Three-quarters of them—almost 12.8 million—likely experience problems with memory or thinking resulting from treatment. Sometimes the symptoms resolve, sometimes they persist, and sometimes they worsen in times of stress.

The condition, called cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI), has no definitive diagnosis and no treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but there are strategies to better cope with its effects. These include:

Writing. Note everything to help remember important tasks.

Reading. One patient who received extensive chemotherapy and radiation regained a longer attention span by reading out loud.

Asking for help. Your oncologist at the hospital may refer you to a neuropsychologist, who can assess the severity of CRCI and recommend coping strategies.

Moving. Establish a regular regimen of physical activity.

Talking. A trained mental health provider such as a psycho-oncologist can help you process the emotional tumult brought on by CRCI.


Lingering Questions

Despite decades of studying CRCI, much work needs to be done, says Gabel. She and other researchers are now working to improve neurological assessments. “One of the difficulties has been to understand the correlation between what patients are noticing and what we are measuring,” she says. “Patients report much more severe symptoms than what we can capture on assessments.”

Then, there is the mystery of CRCI’s neurological origins. Although lab and animal studies suggest that chemotherapy alters cells in the brain and central nervous system, understanding of the exact biological process is incomplete, which makes it hard to treat.

There are some hints to what’s going on, though. Some researchers are looking for answers in the microbiome—the collection of bacteria, good and bad, found in the body. A January 2022 study​ in the European Journal of Cancer reported that treatment with probiotics prevented CRCI in patients with breast cancer.

Bibb says the development of CRCI likely spans many systems within the body, but his work focuses on the mechanistic effects in the brain and the possible influences of the immune system as well. “I think that we are altering brain function directly through potential neurotoxic effects of the drugs but also indirectly through the effects of chemotherapy on the immune system,” he says.

He points to a study on mice, published in January 2019 in C​ell, in which researchers from Stanford University found that treatment with methotrexate, a chemotherapy used to treat many kinds of cancer, changed important immune cells in the brain called microglia, which in turn disrupted other processes in the brain. Microglia play a variety of roles, including breaking down dead or dying cells.

More recently, in August 2021, Bibb and his colleagues published a study in ACS Chemical Neuroscience that identified regions of the brain and biological processes that were disrupted when mice were treated with two common chemotherapies, cisplatin and gemcitabine. Those disruptions, Bibb says, correspond to changes in brain signaling and inflammation in the brain. He cautions that the study was done in mice, and findings in mice don’t always translate to benefits for people, but it does suggest a way forward in understanding the consequences of chemotherapy for the brain.

Bibb believes that research will lead to a treatment for CRCI. “I absolutely see it as targetable,” he says. “We may be able to provide drugs that can prevent those effects or add a therapy that compensates for the indirect causes.”

Chase says that in the six years since she ended chemotherapy, her symptoms have partially subsided, though “I’ll never be at 100%.” One thing she learned, however, was the value of identifying her passions and interests, and finding ways to cultivate them. For her, that meant trying to get back on the stage. “My love of theater has always been there.”

In 2021, she enrolled in a six-week class at Alliance Theater in Atlanta. The class culminated in a performance of a two-person scene before an audience. To her surprise, she found that she could remember previous experiences in dramatic performances—where to move during a scene and how to memorize lines, for example. The night went off without a hitch. (Well, almost: At the last minute, Chase had to change roles, but the audience was none the wiser.)

“It was such a personal victory,” she says. “I didn’t know how much time and therapy and confidence it would take to believe in myself again. At the end of the day, all of those side effects, and cancer, can’t take away the essence of you.”

Stephen Ornes, a contributing writer to Cancer Today, lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

6 Overlooked Signs of Breast Cancer

Over the last few years, and again now that my cancer has returned, many people have asked me if I had any signs of breast cancer before I found the first tumor in my breast. Yes, I did have a few of these signs, and I had pain. Please, remember to do your monthly breast self-exam and watch for these signs.

Medically reviewed by Amy Tiersten, MD — Written by Jennifer Bringle on October 5, 2020

Everyone talks about the importance of catching breast lumps as early as possible. But did you know there’s a host of lesser known breast cancer symptoms that might not show up on a self-exam or mammogram?

According to the American Cancer Society (ACA), breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, other than skin cancers, and it’s the second-most deadly cancer for women behind lung cancer.

On average, there’s about a 1 in 8 chance that a U.S. woman will develop breast cancer at some point in their life. The ACA estimates that more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2020.

The most common form of breast cancer is invasive breast cancer, which is any type that has invaded the breast tissue.

Less common forms include inflammatory breast cancer (which is caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin, causing the breast to look inflamed) and Paget’s disease, which involves the skin of the nipple or areola.

With the high rates of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends women have the choice to start annual mammograms at age 40. The organization says women between the ages of 45 and 54 should get mammograms every year.

And while the disease is most commonly discovered by detecting a lump during a mammogram, there are other lesser known signs and symptoms of breast cancer that women should look out for.

Nipple discharge

Unusual discharge from the nipple can be an indicator that something is wrong in the breast.

According to Marisa Weiss, MD, breast oncologist and founder of BreastCancer.org, discharge that’s bloody or pink and generally only on one side can possibly indicate the presence of cancer in the breast tissue, particularly if it’s persistent.

Skin changes

Skin changes are actually one of the most common lesser known signs of breast cancer.

“Thickness or redness of the skin, along with a little puffiness like the skin of an orange is a sign,” says Weiss. “You see dimpling where the hair follicles are, like a navel orange.”

Skin differences like thickening, dimpling, and changes in color can indicate the presence of inflammatory breast cancer.

Nipple crust

Redness, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the nipple or areola can be a sign of Paget’s disease, which can be an early indication of breast cancer.

The skin changes on the nipples often look like more benign conditions like psoriasis or eczema, but don’t respond to traditional treatments for those issues and instead worsen.

New shape or increase in breast size

An enlarged breast — particularly if the swelling is isolated to one breast — or a change in the shape of the breast, can indicate issues within the tissue.

“An unusual shape where the contour is distorted and there’s a bulge in one part of the breast can be a sign of cancer,” says Weiss.

“It could feel like a lump, but it could also just be a region of the breast that feels firmer, and you can’t really feel a lump within it,” she says. “It also often becomes more pronounced when moving in different positions.”

Inverted nipple

A nipple that looks flat or inverted, as well as a nipple that points in a different direction than it once did, can be a sign of breast cancer.

“Instead of pointing straight outward or downward, it no longer looks in the same direction, but in a different spot,” says Weiss.

A flat or inverted nipple is another sign of Paget’s disease.

Red or hot spots

Red or hot spots on the breast, sometimes covering the entire breast, can be an indicator of inflammatory breast cancer.

While red or hot spots can also indicate mastitis — inflammation of breast tissue due to infection, most often experienced during lactation — mastitis symptoms are usually accompanied by fever.

Red or hot spots without fever that persist and don’t improve can mean breast cancer is present.

The takeaway

Weiss says it’s important to remember that these signs and symptoms can indicate other benign issues that aren’t breast cancer, but it’s critical to monitor the symptoms and act if they don’t subside.

And for those who’ve already had breast cancer, it can be even more difficult to discern the innocuous from the malignant. In that case, Weiss says it’s particularly crucial to monitor changes in the breasts and alert your doctor when something doesn’t look or feel right.

“You’re always worried about recurrence of a new problem, so the ability to recognize the less common symptoms and signs may be a little trickier,” she says.

It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between leftover scar tissue from your prior breast cancer. And if you’ve had mastectomy and reconstruction, you could have lumps and bumps in there that are due to scar tissue from all the healing where they removed and recreated your breast, says Weiss.

No matter what, Weiss advises women to pay attention to their bodies and maintain regular self-exams and mammograms. And should they notice something out of the ordinary? Let their doctor know.

Jennifer Bringle has written for Glamour, Good Housekeeping, and Parents, among other outlets. She’s working on a memoir about her post-cancer experience.

Oncologist Appointment & 2nd Biopsy Results

My husband and I went to see my oncologist on Tuesday to get the biopsy results on my rib. He told us that the results were positive, that there are several cells of cancer located on my rib, and that the mass as a whole is 2.9cm and is located about 1 inch from my spine. I do not have bone cancer; the cancer is not inside my rib. I had absolutely no idea that it was there until a “spot” showed up both on the nuclear bone scan and the PET scan, hence getting the biopsy last week. The cancer cells are similar to the cancer I had before, so it is the same type, breast cancer, so I am diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. It is metastatic breast cancer because my originating cancer was breast cancer, and it has now spread from the breast to another part of my body.

Once the biopsy results were in, my oncologist and my radiation oncologist spoke and determined that putting me through radiation would not only be challenging to treat but also a waste of time. It is difficult to treat me because I have cancer in two very different areas of my body, my neck, and back. They decided it would be a waste of time because they are convinced that I most likely have cancer elsewhere in my body that is too small to show up in scans. So they decided that we should treat my entire body instead of just the areas where we know I have cancer. Surgery is not an option because there is no point in opening me up when I most likely have cancer elsewhere. Plus, surgery in both areas is quite risky due to major blood vessels, arteries, and the spot on my rib being so close to my spine. So with all of those facts in place, I will be starting medication on Monday.

Stage 4 cancer has no cure. As odd as it sounds, I am lucky that we are dealing with breast cancer because there are many drug choices for treatment, and the medical world is always coming out with new and improved drugs. Why is that? Because breast cancer is the leading cancer in the US, with over 2.26 million cases per year, followed very closely by lung cancer at 2.21 million cases per year. Stage 4 breast cancer ads constantly barrage us on TV, and that is why. Not all stage 4 metastatic breast cancer meds are chemotherapy drugs, but I will be on a chemotherapy drug called iBrance. No, I will not lose my hair while on iBrance, even though it is chemotherapy which I am very thankful for. What is sad about iBrance is that it is $18,000 a month; no one can afford that, so thankfully, there is an aid to apply for to get it free for a year. I will also have a new inhibitor in an injection called Faslodex. These two medications are often paired together with favorable results in killing cancer, keeping it from coming back, and extending life.

It is hoped that iBrance being chemotherapy will kill the cancer in my body, and Faslodex with replace the current inhibitor that I am taking, which is Anastrozole because it didn’t work. The Anastrozole might have kept my cancer from spreading and growing more, but it did not keep cancer from coming back by lowering the estrogen in my system, which is its primary job. I have estrogen-driven breast cancer, so I have to take an inhibitor. I took Anastrozole for two years out of 10 before my cancer returned. My treatment plan is as follows…I will be taking iBrance for 21 days, and then I will stop taking it for seven days, then that cycle will repeat. On Monday, I will start my Faslodex injections, with the first three injections being one injection every two weeks and then once a month after that. In about three months, I will have a PET scan to see if there is any change in the size of my tumors. If the medications are working, my tumors should be smaller; if there is no change, my medication will most likely be changed. If my tumors are persistent, I may have to undergo infusion chemotherapy again, but we will try to avoid that. I don’t have any details about how long I will be on the medications, but I suspect it will be at the very least until having a clear PET scan; but I will find out for sure when I see my oncologist on Monday.

I will post again when I have more information about the length of my treatment and how my first injection appointment went. Take care, everyone!

Radiation Oncologist Appointment

A few days ago, I had an appointment with my radiation oncologist. I hadn’t seen her in over two years, so it was nice to see her, but I wish it had been under different circumstances. After we caught up on where we had been, I was finally able to show her the pictures from our vow renewal ceremony, so that was nice, and what we had been doing; we discussed my cancer.

Unfortunately, since the CT of my neck came back clear, she has to wait for the results from my PET scan. She needs to see the exact size and location of the tumor to figure out if she can treat me or not. If there is even the slightest part of the tumor in my previous treatment area, she can’t put me through radiation. I didn’t know that you couldn’t radiate the same area more than once, so we must have clear images to compare from 2019/2020 to today. My PET scan is tomorrow, Friday, and I am going back to my oncologist next Tuesday for the results.

So after my initial appointment, my doctor asked if I could come back in an hour to do some plotting with the tech. I didn’t need to be anywhere, so I said I could come back, no problem. When I came back, they took me to the CT room, measured a few coordinates, and went ahead and marked me with stickers in case I could have radiation soon. When I laid down on the table, my doctor came over and felt where the tumor was, and she said, ” it seems like it is very superficial; that might be why the CT scan didn’t see it.” I hadn’t thought of that being the reason for the clear CT, but it makes sense.

Next, they had me put both arms over my head, which is the position I will have to be in for the radiation treatments. It has been almost three years since my first surgery in April 2019, and it still hurts to have my arms up over my head for any length of time. I have gained a lot of mobility back since that first surgery but not 100%. Because of the pain I am in when in that position, they will make molds for me to rest my arms in so the pain and pressure will be decreased, making me more comfortable. When I put my arms up, my doctor felt the tumor again and said it had dropped slightly in location, taking it closer to the area where I had radiation before; this is not good if I want radiation to be the primary treatment to get rid of the tumor.

So, now we are waiting for my PET scan and the results. What will happen if I can’t have radiation? I am guessing that I will have to have surgery to remove the tumor, but after that, I am not sure. I will be asking my oncologist about that when I see him on Tuesday next week.

Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy: **WARNING: SENSITIVE MATERIAL**

So here we are again, another biopsy, just shy of a few weeks from three years ago when my surgeon did my first biopsy and diagnosed me with breast cancer.

This time I was only in pain when my surgeon gave me the shot of lidocaine. He kept asking me if I was OK because the needle was in for a little bit as he moved it around at different angles to numb the area around the mass. I was facing away from him so he couldn’t see my face for a reaction, so I appreciated him asking me how I was doing multiple times, as it was just another example of what a kind and caring doctor he is.

I had to lay on my right side so he could easily get to the mass because it was at an odd angle on my neck. Since I was lying on my side, I was able to watch the ultrasound monitor and see him put each needle in the mass, collect a sample, then pull the needle back out. As he put each sample into a small container with a tiny amount of saline, his assistant closed each container; there were three in total. He said that the mass is about 1 centimeter, so I hopefully caught it early enough.

All in all, everything went fine. I should have the results back at the latest on Tuesday. I couldn’t help but notice that my surgeon told me that he was taking the samples over to the lab personally, right away. Yes, that did concern me a little, his urgency, and that only made my gut feeling about all of this feel more valid. He also told me that he spoke with my oncologist and that if my results are positive, my oncologist will order the PET scan asap.

Minor bruising today, along with a small hematoma. I am very, very sore, but you would be too if you had four needles poked in you!

My gut feeling is based on these events, are they coincidences? This mass is very much like the first one three years ago in many ways. It feels the same and looks the same on the ultrasound, and there is something else, each time I have had pain in another part of my body before finding a mass. I first had pain in my neck, shoulder, and shoulder blade a few weeks before finding my tumor. I thought I had slept funny, but as the days went by, the pain did not go away. This time, around Thanksgiving, I had terrible pain on the outside of my ear, going up the side of my head to the top of my head. As I said in a previous post, my oncologist ordered an MRI of my head, but it was clear, so we had no explanation for my pain. I was in agony until about two weeks ago when the pain suddenly stopped, and I now have found another mass.

I will update as soon as I have the results…prayers! 💕

Sorry I Have Been Away, Time To Catch Up

I am sorry that I have been away from here for over five months. I have been dealing with some complicated things, and it has been challenging for me to come here and write about them. This is where I can release my thoughts with the hope of feeling better, but I haven’t been able to do that until now. Even now, I might not share everything with you because I feel like I can’t. I know I said that I would always be very open with my readers when I started this blog, but some things have happened that I am not comfortable with sharing just yet, and I may never be. With all of that said, here is a quick recap of my appointment with my surgeon in September and my oncologist in December of 2021.

In September, I had my annual mammogram and ultrasound followed by an appointment with my surgeon to find out the imaging results and have my yearly checkup. My imaging was clear, and my exam went well. My scars are fading; everything has healed beautifully and looks as it should, so that was excellent news! I have noticed that many women I know who have gone through breast cancer have a mammogram and ultrasound every six months, where I have them every 12 months, so I asked my surgeon about it. He said that it is unnecessary to have them more often than 12 months unless I notice an issue. As usual, my surgeon answered my questions and put my mind at ease, reminding me that I have the best doctor for me and my needs.

My appointment with my oncologist in December was both good and frustrating. Around Thanksgiving, I started having pain on the left side of my head, and at times it hurt so bad that I had to take some of the oxycodone that I had leftover from my surgeries and chemo. The pain went from just outside of my ear, up the side of my head, and over to the top of my head. My oncologist wasn’t overly concerned about me having a tumor in my brain but to be sure, I had an MRI just before Christmas. My MRI came back clear, so that was frustrating only because I had no explanation for the pain and discomfort I was in 24/7 by that time. So the pain continued until suddenly, one day in mid-January, I realized that the pain was gone, and it has not come back since. I still have no idea of what was causing me so much pain, but I am so happy that it is gone. The good parts about my appointment are that my blood panels came back normal for the first time since I started chemo in May 2019. Even more good news is that on October 3rd, the day of my final chemo treatment in 2019, I reached my first significant milestone; I made it to my second anniversary of being cancer-free! I am incredibly grateful that I have made it through the first two years, and I am hopeful that I will continue to stay healthy and cancer-free until my next milestone in another three years, at five years.

If you know me on Facebook, you know what has happened in the past two days; if you don’t, please read my next post which will be posted later tonight, where I explain what is happening with me now.

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