When I had my appointment with my oncologist on August 5th, I was hoping that my red blood cell count would finally be in the normal range, but it isn’t quite there yet. I wasn’t too surprised as I have been tired lately and not feeling the greatest. At this point, nothing but time will help, so I am trying to be patient.
I am still having a lot of issues with my memory. It seems like only my short-term memory is being affected, but it is starting to drive me crazy. My oncologist asked me if I am still “fuzzy,” and I said that yes, I am still having issues. So, I am taking a week off Anastrozole to see if it helps clear my head or not.
The good news is that I have reached my first significant milestone! On May 23rd, one day after our 17th wedding anniversary, 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.
Once I have my next appointment in December, I will finally be on a different schedule with my oncologist. I will switch from seeing him every three or four months to every six months. I am making progress, and it feels good!
Hi, I can’t believe that we are already in July and that it has been over three months since I published a post here! In my defense, I can tell you that I have had a lot going on since the middle of April.
In early May, I started looking for a house to move to because with the housing market going crazy, I was sure that the owner of the house we had been renting for the last six years would want to sell. About a week later, my suspicions were confirmed by a phone call from the owner. Finding a house was challenging because the home would be listed online, and not even 24 hours later, there were multiple applications on it. Right before we were due to leave on vacation, we went to see a house, and it was perfect! At first, we didn’t know if we had gotten it, but right before we flew out of town, we received the news that we had been approved and would get the keys on June 1st after we returned from vacation. So, my time was filled with stress from looking for a house and then getting ready to go on vacation, but it was worth it because we have moved into a house that is perfect for us and our vacation was wonderful!
While on vacation, we renewed our wedding vows on our 17th anniversary, and everything was perfect on our special day! Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is one of our favorite places to relax and reconnect with each other, so why not renew our vows while there. We were supposed to renew our vows two years ago, but between my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2019 and Covid causing the world to stop in 2020, we had to post phone our trip and ceremony until this year.
I will update you with everything that has been going on over a few different posts in the coming days, which will include a huge milestone, a follow-up appointment with my surgeon, and how I am doing these days.
Today I had my three-month follow-up appointment with my oncologist. As usual, we spoke about how I am doing on Anastrozole. I am continuing to do well with no major side effects. I still have eight years and ten months to go, but all should continue to go well as time passes by.
He also wanted an update on how I am doing since my last surgery, which was a month ago today. I told him that I am very happy with my results and that I have healed well with very little pain. He said that he finds that surgeons often don’t prepare their patients concerning the pain they will experience after surgery and how long it can go on. I agreed that realistic expectations aren’t discussed, and for me, that was hard because in April 2019, when my cancer was removed was the first surgery I have ever had in my life. Yes, I knew there would be a pain, but I would have never guessed at just how long after surgery I would still have pain here and there.
My blood work was done today as well, and my red blood cell count is still a little low. We are thinking that moving forward; my count will be a little low; it’s where my system has settled after everything I have gone through, and I am OK with that as long as I continue to stay healthy.
I am just about to reach my second significant milestone with my oncologist. I will have one more follow-up appointment in three months, and then I am graduating to the six-month plan, which signifies my being two years out from when I started chemotherapy with no recurrence. Over the next three years, I will see him every six months until I get to the five-year goal of being cancer-free. He was happy to tell me that I am still cancer-free and doing well! I am beyond grateful and happy! 🙂 💕
I just realized that I hadn’t given an update on how things are going with my dermatology appointments in quite some time. As a reminder, after my radiation treatments were over at the end of January last year, I was left with three blue radiation tattoos that are deep in my skin and much larger than they should be, so I decided to have them removed. I found an excellent doctor in Atlanta that does laser treatments to remove tattoos, and he removes radiation tattoos for FREE for cancer patients. On February 25th, 2020, I had my first appointment with him, and I can’t lie; it does hurt, but after a few hours, the pain turns into soreness, and a few days later, it doesn’t hurt at all.
Recovering from all of the surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and radiation treatments is a very personal and challenging part of the cancer journey. I have found when talking with other cancer patients that they don’t mind the radiation tattoos, but for me, it is a reminder of a terrible time in my life, and I don’t want to see them on my body. What is odd to me is that my port scar, which is visible with most of the tops that I wear, doesn’t bother me; it is like a badge of honor to me. My scars from my multiple surgeries to my chest are still fading away, and some of them are almost entirely gone, so they don’t bother me either. But the radiation tattoos…I can’t stand them! I know that none of this makes sense, but it’s how my mind works; I guess what counts is that I am doing what I need to for me and no one else.
So far, I have had eight appointments, and the tattoos have faded quite a bit. I was trying to go every four weeks, but between the doctor needing to reschedule me a few times, me going through another surgery last April, and the holidays, I have missed about five months. My doctor is wonderful and very understanding, so when I saw him earlier this month, he assured me that we would keep going until all three of the tattoos are gone; he exclaimed: “We will finish the treatments this year for sure!” I will post images from my before and now progress in the next dermatologist update.
Side note: I asked the nurse the other day how much my appointments would generally be, and she said $125 each. Dermatologist appointments are not covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic, so it doesn’t matter that I currently do not have insurance. I must say that I am so grateful that I found this doctor because I would already be $1000 into the cost of having these tattoos removed, and that is quite a bit of money when I think about it.
About ten days after starting my chemotherapy treatments, my hair started to fall out. I had eight inches of my hair cut off before I started my treatments, so my hair was much shorter, but it was still devastating to see handfuls of my hair fall out. My hair started to grow back around one month after my treatments were over. Fifteen months later, my hair is wavy and about six inches long, so it has been a little slow to grow back, and I have a few thin spots, so those spots are not growing as quickly as the rest of my hair. I have been taking Viviscal for the past seven weeks to help promote my hair growth. It is recommended that you take it for at least three to six months, so we will see if my growth improves with more time, as so far, I do not see much of a change. I do eat most of the foods that are listed below, and I am taking vitamins and supplements as well, so I feel like I am doing all I can to help my hair grow back healthy and strong.
Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients that may promote hair growth.
Eating adequate protein is important for hair growth because hair follicles are made of mostly protein. A lack of protein in the diet has been shown to promote hair loss (1Trusted Source).
Biotin is essential for the production of a hair protein called keratin, which is why biotin supplements are often marketed for hair growth. Research has also shown that consuming more biotin can help improve hair growth in people with a biotin deficiency (2).
However, biotin deficiencies are uncommon if you consume a balanced diet. There is little evidence to show healthy people benefit from consuming more biotin (3Trusted Source).
Eggs are also a great source of zinc, selenium and other hair-healthy nutrients. This makes them one of the best foods to consume for optimal hair health (4).
Summary Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, which are important for hair health and growth. A deficiency in either of these nutrients has been linked to hair loss.
Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may promote hair growth.
This includes vitamin C, which has strong antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants can help protect hair follicles against damage from harmful molecules called free radicals. These molecules exist naturally in the body and the environment (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
For example, 1 cup (144 grams) of strawberries provides an impressive 141% of your daily vitamin C needs (7).
Also, the body uses vitamin C to produce collagen, a protein that helps strengthen hair to prevent it from becoming brittle and breaking (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
What’s more, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from the diet. Low iron levels may cause anemia, which has been linked to hair loss (10Trusted Source).
Summary Berries are loaded with compounds like antioxidants and vitamins that may promote hair growth. For example, strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which aids collagen production and iron absorption, two factors that may promote hair growth.
A cup (30 grams) of spinach provides up to 54% of your daily vitamin A needs (11).
Spinach is also a great plant-based source of iron, which is essential for hair growth. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body to fuel your metabolism and aid growth and repair (14Trusted Source).
What’s more, iron deficiencies have been linked to hair loss (10Trusted Source).
Summary Spinach is loaded with folate, iron, and vitamins A and C, which may promote hair growth. A deficiency in these nutrients may result in hair loss.
Summary Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved hair growth and density. However, there are only a few studies in this area, so more are needed.
Avocados are delicious, nutritious and a great source of healthy fats.
They are also an excellent source of vitamin E, which may promote hair growth. One medium avocado (about 200 grams) provides 21% of your daily vitamin E needs (21).
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals.
In one study, people with hair loss experienced 34.5% more hair growth after taking a vitamin E supplement for eight months (22Trusted Source).
Vitamin E also protects areas of the skin, like the scalp, from oxidative stress and damage. Damaged skin on the scalp can result in poor hair quality and fewer hair follicles (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
What’s more, avocados are a great source of essential fatty acids. These fats cannot be produced by the body, but are essential building blocks of your cells. A deficiency in essential fatty acids has been linked to hair loss (25Trusted Source).
Summary Avocados are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that may promote hair growth. Additionally, they are a great source of essential fatty acids, which appear to be crucial for hair growth.
Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc (31).
Zinc is a mineral that helps support the hair growth and repair cycle (32Trusted Source).
A lack of zinc in the diet may promote telogen effluvium, a common but reversible form of hair loss caused by a lack of nutrients in the diet (33Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that taking a zinc supplement can reverse the effects of hair loss caused by a zinc deficiency (34Trusted Source, 35).
However, taking too much zinc could also promote hair loss. That’s why getting zinc from foods like oysters may be better than taking supplements, since foods provide zinc in small but healthy doses (36Trusted Source).
Summary Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc in the diet. This mineral helps support the hair growth and repair cycle.
Studies have shown that compounds in soybeans may promote hair growth. One of these compounds is spermidine, which is abundant in soybeans (42Trusted Source).
For example, a study of 100 healthy people found that a spermidine-based nutritional supplement prolonged a phase of active hair growth called the anagen phase. The longer a hair follicle stays in the anagen phase, the longer it will grow (43Trusted Source).
Test-tube studies have also shown that spermidine promotes human hair growth (44Trusted Source).
However, the research on spermidine and hair growth is fairly new, so more studies are needed before health experts can make recommendations on spermidine intake.
Summary Soybeans are one of the best sources of spermidine, a compound that may prolong the active phase of hair growth.
As I said in my previous blog post, I have had some struggles recently. I have been trying to write about what has been going on, but it has been challenging to put it into words. I am still not prepared, but there may never be a good time, so I may as well start to talk about it.
I had a check-up with my oncologist back on the 7th of January. I didn’t write about my appointment right away because it was an unusual appointment, not my usual, “Yes, I am doing fine on my medication. My sleep is improving, as I am averaging just one night a week, where I am still awake at 5 or 6 am, instead of several nights a week. I am still fighting fatigue…blah, blah, blah…”
My bloodwork has improved to where all of my levels are normal except for my red blood cell count, it’s still low, and unfortunately, it may be my regular reading from now on. It’s not terribly low at all, 4.18, where 4.20 to 5.40 is a normal range. But being even slightly low, I can feel it, so hearing that I might not ever be in the normal range makes me terribly sad as I hate feeling this way. I asked if there is anything I can do, that some cancer patients say that they take iron to fight the fatigue. My PA said that I could take iron, but she cautioned me that it could upset my stomach, so I should take it only every other day to start if I decide to try it. She also said that she had heard that there is a liquid version that might be easier to take, but she hasn’t seen it, so she wasn’t even sure where I could get it. I am on the fence about taking iron, so for now, I am not doing it.
My PA explained that one of the essential readings they are looking at when I come every three months is my Hgb or hemoglobin. Low hemoglobin levels usually indicate that a person has anemia. There are several kinds of anemia: Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type. This form of anemia occurs when a person does not have enough iron in their body, and it cannot make the hemoglobin it needs. High Hgb is known as polycythemia. This means you have too many red blood cells. Polycythemia vera is a cancer of the blood in which your bone marrow overproduces red blood cells. With polycythemia, a blood test also shows a high red blood cell count and high hematocrit. So low or high Hgb would be bad for me, it would mean I am either anemic, which was also a concern during my chemo treatments, or I have cancer in my blood. My Hgb is a little low, only one point from the lowest acceptable level, but nothing to worry about for now.
Now for the tough part…for most of my appointment, I cried a lot. It was hard to talk about, even with my PA, whom I adore. I kept looking away from her while I was talking and crying; I was embarrassed. Why was I crying? It was a lot of things, but mainly the fact that I have had an overwhelming feeling of guilt recently. Why do I feel guilty? As it is, it’s hard being a cancer survivor, and for me, it is tough because I have always had a great deal of empathy for people, but now it includes other cancer patients. Recently quite a few people I know, through various ways, are dealing with having a cancer recurrence. I feel guilty because I am still doing well; I am OK for the most part. They are experiencing my greatest fear, and I am feeling guilty because it isn’t me. It is also a reminder that my breast cancer was incredibly aggressive, and it could return at any time.
It is easy for most to say, “don’t live in fear, don’t worry about it,” but honestly, someone who says that to me clearly doesn’t understand how horrifying it is to go from barely needing to see a doctor to countless scans, blood draws, chemotherapy, radiation and four surgeries in a matter of fourteen months. All three of my doctors, my cancer treatments, everything I went through saved my life without a doubt, but it also damaged me in every way. I don’t know if I will ever be myself again, many cancer patients tell me that I won’t be, but I am doing everything I can to defy that future.
At the end of February, I will reach the second anniversary of my first appointment with my surgeon when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In many ways, I can’t believe that it has been that long already, and in other ways, it feels like it has been a lifetime.
Thank you for being here; it helps to know that people care enough to read my blog, that the information I am sharing helps other cancer patients and their caregivers, and it helps me in more ways than I can say.