Follow-up with My Surgeon & Another Big Milestone

Yesterday I had my six-month follow-up appointment with my surgeon. It has been six months since I received my clear mammogram and ultrasound results and ten months since my last surgery. Two years ago, I met my surgeon for the first time, and he knew just by looking at the ultrasound he was performing in his office that I had cancer. The next day he did my first biopsy, and a few days later, he diagnosed me with breast cancer. I can’t believe that it has been two years since that horrible day, but I am grateful that I have had him by my side, helping me fight this horrible disease over the past two years.

Everything looks good as far as healing from my last surgery, and I have no signs of complications. I told him about a few areas where I am having some pain when pressure is applied, like during a self-exam. He said that the pain is nothing for me to worry about; it’s very normal considering I have had multiple surgeries and radiation.

I also mentioned to him that the area under my left arm that has been painful on and off since my first reconstruction surgery back in November of 2019, is still uncomfortable. The area bulges out past the curve of my breast, making it difficult to wear a bra for an extended period of time; plus, when I am not wearing a bra, it is obvious if my shirt isn’t completely loose. I have tried lifting weights and working out when I have had the energy, but it hasn’t helped reduce the area at all. He said that I wouldn’t be able to exercise the area to reduce the size or for it to go away, and offered to cut it out if I would like him to. So, we scheduled my surgery for next Thursday, March 4th, at 9:00 am.

Do I want to go through another surgery? Not really, but the discomfort and the way the area feels and looks to me are enough to override my feelings about having a fifth surgery. Luckily this surgery will be quick like my port placement was, about 30 minutes, so my healing and recovery should be relatively easy to get through.

I will keep everyone updated as to what happens.

The 14 Best Foods for Hair Growth

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.

Written by Ryan Raman, MS, RD on April 9, 2018

Many people want strong and healthy hair, especially as they grow older.

Interestingly, your hair grows around 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) per month, and 6 inches (15 cm) per year. How fast it grows depends on factors like age, health, genetics and diet.

Although you can’t change factors like age and genetics, diet is one thing you have control over. In fact, consuming a diet lacking the right nutrients can lead to hair loss.

On the other hand, eating a balanced diet with the right nutrients can help promote hair growth, especially if you’re experiencing hair loss due to poor nutrition.

Here are the 14 best foods you can eat to promote hair growth.

1. Eggs

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.

2. Berries

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 Source6Trusted 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 Source9Trusted 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.

3. Spinach

Spinach is a healthy green vegetable that’s loaded with beneficial nutrients like folate, iron, and vitamins A and C, all of which may promote hair growth (11).

Vitamin A helps the skin glands produce sebum. This oily substance helps moisturize the scalp to keep hair healthy (12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

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.

4. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel have nutrients that may promote hair growth.

They are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to hair growth.

A study in 120 women found that taking a supplement containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as antioxidants reduced hair loss and increased hair density (15Trusted Source).

Another study found that taking a fish oil supplement significantly reduced hair loss and increased hair growth in women with thinning hair (16Trusted Source).

However, there are only a handful of studies on omega-3 fatty acids and hair growth. More studies are needed before health experts can make any recommendations.

Fatty fish is also a great source of protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins, nutrients that may help promote strong and healthy hair (17).

Purchase salmon online.

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.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene. The body converts this compound into vitamin A, which is linked to good hair health.

A medium sweet potato (about 114 grams) contains enough beta-carotene to provide more than four times your daily vitamin A needs (18).

Research has shown that vitamin A promotes the production of sebum, which helps keep hair healthy.

What’s more, vitamin A could also speed up the rate of hair growth and encourage the growth of thicker hair, all while preventing other hair follicles from regressing (1920).

Summary Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, which helps aid sebum production. Additionally, it has other factors that may help speed up the rate of hair growth.

6. Avocados

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 Source24Trusted 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.

7. Nuts

Nuts are tasty, convenient and contain a variety of nutrients that may promote hair growth.

For example, an ounce (28 grams) of almonds provides an impressive 37% of your daily vitamin E needs (26).

What’s more, they also provide a wide variety of B vitamins, zinc and essential fatty acids. A deficiency in any of these nutrients has been linked to hair loss (9Trusted Source).

Nuts have also been linked to a wide variety of other health benefits besides hair growth, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease (27Trusted Source).

This makes nuts an excellent and easy addition to your diet.

Buy almonds online.

Summary Nuts are packed with nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc and essential fatty acids, all of which may promote hair growth and are linked to many other health benefits.

8. Seeds

Seeds deliver a massive amount of nutrients with relatively few calories. Many of these nutrients may also promote hair growth. These include vitamin E, zinc and selenium.

An ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds provides nearly 50% of your daily vitamin E needs, with a wide variety of hair-healthy B vitamins (28).

What’s more, certain seeds like flaxseeds and chia seeds also provide omega-3 fatty acids.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of flaxseeds provides 6,388 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. That’s more omega-3 fatty acids than half a fillet (178 grams) of salmon (1629).

However, flaxseeds provide a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is not used by the body as efficiently as the omega-3s found in fatty fish. Nonetheless, it’s a great addition to the diet.

In order to get the widest variety of nutrients, it’s best to consume a mixture of seeds.

Shop for sunflowerflax, and chia seeds online.

Summary Like nuts, seeds are rich in vitamin E and other nutrients that may promote hair growth. Some seeds also contain omega-3s, which have been linked to hair growth.

9. Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, which may aid hair growth.

In fact, one yellow pepper provides nearly 5.5 times as much vitamin C as an orange (30).

Vitamin C helps promote collagen production, which can help strengthen your hair strands. It’s also a strong antioxidant, which can protect hair strands against oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defense system. It has been linked to hair loss and the graying of hair (5Trusted Source6Trusted Source).

What’s more, sweet peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A.

This vitamin may help speed up hair growth while stimulating the production of sebum, which helps keep hair healthy.

Summary Sweet peppers are a rich source of vitamins A and C, two nutrients that help ensure hair stays healthy and that may aid hair growth.

10. Oysters

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 Source35).

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.

11. Shrimp

Shrimp are popular shellfish rich in many nutrients that have the potential to promote hair growth.

For example, shrimp are a great source of protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron and vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of shrimp provides 38% of your daily vitamin D needs (37).

Interestingly, studies have linked vitamin D3 deficiency to hair loss (38Trusted Source39Trusted Source40Trusted Source).

Despite being very low in fat, shrimp also provide a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved hair growth (16Trusted Source37).

Summary Shrimp are a great source of protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron and vitamin D, which may aid hair growth. They also provide a small amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

12. Beans

Beans are a great plant-based source of protein, which is essential to hair growth.

Like oysters, beans are a good source of zinc, which aids the hair growth and repair cycle. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of black beans provides 7% of your daily zinc needs (32Trusted Source).

They also provide many other hair-healthy nutrients, including iron, biotin and folate (41).

On top of all these benefits, beans are highly versatile and inexpensive, which makes them an easy addition to the diet.

Find a selection of beans online.

Summary Beans are a great source of protein, iron, zinc and biotin, which are all essential for optimal hair health. Together, they may aid hair growth.

13. Soybeans

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.

14. Meat

Meat is a staple in many people’s diet and is rich in nutrients that may aid hair growth.

The protein in meat aids growth and helps repair and strengthen hair follicles. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked sirloin steak provides as much as 29 grams of protein (45).

Red meat, in particular, is rich in a type of iron that’s easy to absorb. This mineral helps the red blood cells deliver oxygen to all cells in the body, including hair follicles (14Trusted Source).

Deficiencies in protein and iron have been linked to hair loss (1Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

Summary Meat is a great source of protein, which is essential for healthy, strong hair. Red meat, in particular, is rich in iron, which may aid hair growth.

The Bottom Line

What you eat can have a huge effect on the health of your hair.

A lack of the right nutrients including vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, B vitamins, iron, biotin, protein and essential fatty acids may slow down hair growth or even cause hair loss.

Fortunately, correcting a deficiency in any of these nutrients may help treat hair loss and promote the rate of hair growth.

If you think you’re lacking any of these nutrients, try adding some of the above foods to your diet.

How I Learned to Adjust to Post-Cancer Life

Going in line with my last entry, here is an excellent article about adjusting to life post-cancer. It’s so easy for people to think that just because you are done with the surgeries and treatments, that you are back to normal. I get so tired of people asking me if I am done with “everything” and then responding with “so you are all good now” when I respond by saying that yes, I am done with the surgeries and treatments, but I am on medication the next ten years. I generally don’t say anything more as it is clear that the person I am talking to doesn’t even remotely follow what is going on with me. I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but it is somewhat insulting when someone I thought was a good friend, has such a conversation with me. I can say, though, that I have had this happen a few times, but they are still my friends, and I love them, so I am still here to talk whenever they want.

This article describes the hell that I am currently dealing with, and have been for months, and in many parts, it is almost as if I had written it myself. As I try to get through the bad days as best as possible, I have had a very positive change, thanks to this article. I have finally been able to get a handle on my issues with not being able to sleep, and I credit two things for that; the first is that I have found an app that works well for me when it comes to relaxing at bedtime, so I can fall asleep quickly before my mind has a chance to race and keep me awake. {the app is called loona}. The second is that now that the neuropathy is mostly gone from my hands, I am making jewelry again, which makes me very happy, so my stress level is much lower on most days. {My website is mmillsdesigns, where you will find my online shop and blog about my small business}.

I want to conclude by saying that it may sound odd to anyone who has not been in the position of having doctors by your side for many, many months, saving your life from cancer; that the routine, even if it involves the terrible experience of chemotherapy treatments or many surgeries, becomes something that you depend on and get used to as time goes by. It’s almost effortless to get emotionally attached to your doctors when you see them regularly, especially in the beginning after being diagnosed. I was going to appointments twice a week for months as the severity of my breast cancer was coming to light. My chemotherapy treatments were every week for four months, and my Radiation treatments were every weekday for five weeks. So when you have been deemed a survivor, for me, it was after my last clear mammogram on August 17th, 2020; there is a sense of relief as you hear the words “no evidence of disease,” but there is also an overwhelming feeling of loss as well because now all of the hustle and bustle centered around saving your life is going to slow down a lot as the doctor’s appointments become less frequent; I currently see my oncologist every three months, and I see my surgeon every six months. As I have said in past posts, the first two years after the end of my treatments is the most critical time in survivorship because the chance of re-occurrence is at its highest. After two years have passed, the chance of re-occurrence will drop slightly, and when I reach five years with no re-occurrence, the chance will substantially drop; so, that is why my doctors are closely monitoring me for the next few years.

After reading my commentary and the article below, I hope that you, my dear readers, will understand a bit more about the complexity of post-cancer life and survivors’ experience.

Medically reviewed by Jenneh Rishe, RN — Written by Jennifer Bringle on December 17, 2020

Moving on and finding some semblance of normalcy is much more difficult than advertised.

I’d just closed my eyes for a nap when the trill of the phone ringing snapped me back to consciousness. Gingerly reaching for the receiver, I answered hesitantly, nervous as to who might be on the other end.

It was my surgeon, calling with the results of my mastectomy pathology.

“The tissue from your breasts was totally clear,” he said with a smile I could literally hear in his voice. “And your lymph nodes were all normal, too. There was no evidence of disease.”

These are the four magical words every cancer patient longs to hear: no evidence of disease.

They’re the goal — the best possible result of months of grueling treatment. They mean you get to live.

Months earlier, I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear those words. After finding a lump in my left breast, I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, along with the BRCA2 gene mutation.

I faced a gauntlet of chemotherapy followed by a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

There were bumps in the road along the way — an emergency room visit and an allergic reaction to one of my chemo drugs — but I’d finally reached the end.

I could finally relax and get back to my “normal” life.

The first clue that this would be easier said than done came a few weeks later, when I found myself in tears after being released by my surgeon for annual visits instead of the every few weeks I’d been seeing him up to that point.

Driving home that day, wiping away the tears suddenly spilling down my cheeks, I couldn’t figure out why I was so sad. Shouldn’t I be happy?

What I would soon learn is that this is a common occurrence among cancer survivors.

Once treatment ends and we get the all clear, the world expects us to move on, find our “new normal,” and become those smiling survivors we see in marketing campaigns.

The reality is, moving on and finding some semblance of normalcy is much more difficult than advertised.

In the days and months after completing treatment, I dealt with an array of unexpected emotions.

Sadness at the end of a comfortable routine with my doctors, whom I’d become very attached to during the months they stood alongside me, trying to save my life.

Fear that every little pain or cough could be a sign of new cancer or cancer that spread.

And grief over all I’d lost — my breasts, my hair, and trust in my own body.

As time wore on, I realized instead of becoming happier and less afraid, my anxiety was reaching new levels.

Fearful — often irrational — thoughts about cancer recurring or metastasizing began to disrupt my daily life.

Instead of paying attention to my son and husband, I was often distracted, Googling symptoms on my phone.

Even happy moments like birthdays and vacations were marred by my irrational fears that a headache was a brain tumor, or my backache was more than simply a pulled muscle.

I knew I had to do something to get my anxiety under control.

Though I’d resisted asking for help, pridefully insisting I could handle it myself, I realized the time had come to seek professional assistance.

I scheduled a therapy appointment with a counselor specializing in the needs of cancer patients and survivors.

Even though she couldn’t personally understand what I was going through, her training and experience gave her a level of empathy and insight that made talking to her about my anxiety calming and productive.

During those sessions, she taught me another valuable tool to help quell my anxiety: meditation.

Through basic mindfulness techniques like focusing on my breath and learning to acknowledge and then dismiss negative thoughts, I became better able to manage my anxiety on a daily basis.

Using a guided meditation app before bed began to replace my nightly symptom Googling, leading to easier sleep.

While working on my mental health, I also started focusing on improving my physical health.

Cancer treatment left me weaker and more sedentary, so I started incorporating walks into my daily routine to rebuild my strength. Whether it was a quick jaunt on my lunch break or a treadmill workout in the evening, adding vigorous-yet-gentle physical activity helped me feel stronger and more energetic.

I also began paying more attention to what I ate. While I certainly still indulge in my beloved sweets, I also try to eat more fruits and vegetables daily.

These manageable changes to my diet and exercise may not prevent my cancer from returning, but they will help me build a body that’s strong enough to endure treatment again.

While all these new things certainly helped me adjust to life after cancer, I knew I needed something else to help manage my anxiety. After talking with my doctor, I made the decision to give a mild antidepressant a try.

I’d been resistant to adding another medication to my daily regimen, but I also reminded myself that I didn’t question taking a pill that might prevent my cancer from returning. So why was I so reluctant to take something that could help me with the anxiety that had taken over my life?

For those of us who’ve survived cancer, there’s a great deal of pressure to live up to the persona of strength that gets bestowed upon us during treatment.

We’re treated as though we’re almost super-human — the ones who beat death.

But the truth is, that fortitude is often a facade, masking the fear and pain that cancer survivors live with after treatment ends.

The process of working through those emotions to achieve a sense of normalcy in our lives is an ongoing, personal journey.

While what worked for me might not work for everyone, finding my own formula has allowed me to regain something I thought I’d lost after cancer — happiness.

Three Month Follow-up with My Oncologist

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.

9 Things You May Not Have Heard from Your Doctor About Breast Cancer

I can relate to quite a few of the issues described below. I appreciate this article because it reminds me that the way I have been feeling recently is very common for cancer patients. I need to continue to give myself time to continue to heal both physically and emotionally.

Medically reviewed by Michelle Azu, M.D. — Written by Anna Crollman on September 24, 2020

It can be difficult for others to understand what you’re feeling without going through it themselves.

When it comes to breast cancer, your medical team can provide you with a wealth of expert medical advice.

But when it comes to the actual experience — how to manage the side effects and long-term insight on your options — some insight may be better understood by talking to other women who have walked the breast cancer path before you.

1. Fertility treatment options are best explored before you begin chemo

Many times, this step can be overlooked in the process of expediting your treatment.

However, discussing fertility preservation options before beginning any chemotherapy — which could impact long-term fertility — is important.

2. When your hair falls out, it could be painful

As the follicles die, there can be a painful and tender sensation on the scalp.

Many survivors will recommend you shave your head with a close razor as soon as this sensation begins in order to minimize the discomfort.

It’s always important to talk to your treatment team about unfamiliar side effects you’re experiencing to know if they’re expected parts of the treatment.

3. You may experience significant weight gain from the steroids

Many people associate weight loss with chemotherapy, but some women have the opposite experience and actually gain weight. Either can be challenging, both physically and emotionally.

4. Medication can affect your sex drive

Lupron and other hormone-blocking medications can cause vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, as well as decrease your sex drive.

You’re not alone in these challenges.

There are treatment options, and the sooner you intervene, the better. Don’t be embarrassed to ask about your options in terms of topical lidocaine, dilators, and daily moisturizing.

If your oncology team cannot advise you further in this area, they should be able to refer you to a health practitioner who can. Your gynecologist may also be a good choice for discussing your concerns.

5. You have options when it comes to breast reconstruction

Don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion. Most surgeons offer or recommend the surgery types they’re most familiar with.

They won’t be offended by you getting another opinion, and it will help you come to a decision as a more informed and empowered patient — which is critically important.

6. Your implants may be cold to the touch

This is a rare and unexpected experience that occurs in some women who’ve had implants, and it can be helpful to be prepared for this ahead of time.

Regardless, it’s important to inform your surgical team so they can ensure there are no concerns related to your healing.

7. Complementary treatments help to manage side effects

More and more, oncologists are recognizing the benefits of holistic and complementary therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, and more.

Ask your local cancer support centers or organizations for referrals. Some centers have an integrative oncology program where these services are offered by a team that can communicate with your cancer treatment team.

8. Life after cancer can be harder emotionally than active treatment

When all the appointments are done and you’re not being monitored regularly, it can be unsettling.

Sometimes it can feel even harder if those around you are ready to celebrate and “move on,” and you’re not.

Don’t be afraid if you find yourself struggling to cope. You’re not alone in these feelings and it’s a good idea to reach out to your treatment team about support services, which may include a mental health professional.

9. Reconstruction is a journey

Not everyone feels comfortable with their outcome after reconstructive surgery. For many, the first surgery is the first phase of a two-step process, or more in some cases if needed.

In my case, it has been 5 surgeries over 4 years, and I’m planning to do more revisions this year.

If you’re dissatisfied, give yourself time to adjust to the changes and then don’t be afraid to ask what revision options are available.

The bottom line

The first-hand experience you will gain by connecting with other breast cancer patients and survivors can help you feel less alone and help you navigate your own cancer journey with support.

Find other cancer survivors with similar stories in the BC Healthline app, the Young Survival Coalition groups, and even through hashtags on social media, such as #breastcancersurvivor#youngbreastcancersurivor, and #doublemastectomy.

1 Year Update: Reconstruction, Breast Reduction & Port Removal Surgery **WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGERY PHOTOS**

Mood: Thoughtful & Grateful 😊

If you have not read my previous entries about this particular surgery, including photos, the links are listed below in order.

Reconstruction, Breast Reduction & Port Removal Surgery

Post Surgery Follow-Up **WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGERY PHOTOS**

A Month After Surgery **WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGERY PHOTOS**

On November 14th, 2019, I headed into surgery for the third time. I was excited about this surgery because my surgeon was fixing my lopsided chest. When I had my first surgery, he was removing cancer and planning for the reconstruction surgery that I would go through after chemotherapy. Now that chemotherapy was over, and we had given my body time to get rid of all of the drugs from sixteen treatments, I was ready for surgery.

As I said in my previous post about this surgery, my surgeon checked in on me before the surgery; he measured me, referenced his notes and pictures, and explained again in detail what he would be doing. He could see that I was nervous, so he assured me that while this would be my longest surgery to date, three to four hours, he was not worried about it at all and that I shouldn’t be worried either…I would be just fine, and as before, I would get through the surgery easily.

Recovering from this surgery, as far as pain was concerned, was not as difficult as recovering from my cancer surgery. I didn’t have any drains to deal with, which was great, but this time both of my breasts were opened up. I had cuts and sutures all over my chest, and coping with the trama of how I looked was difficult. I felt ugly, like I was a stitched up monster, so it was tough to look at myself in a mirror for the first few weeks of recovery.

Now it has been a year since this surgery, and I can’t believe how much my scars have faded! As time goes by, I am sure that my scars will fade even more; using Bio-Oil a few times a week seems to have helped immensely. 🙂