Today is our 16th wedding anniversary and I can’t help but look back at this time last year as it was a major turning point in my breast cancer journey. The day after our 15th wedding anniversary last year I started aggressive chemotherapy. I had already gone through my first surgery to remove the cancer and my second surgery to place the port in my chest for my chemotherapy treatments, but little did I know at the time that the most difficult fight of my life was just beginning.
Everything was so overwhelming and it felt like I was floating through all of the doctors appointments, surgeries, scans and tests in a daze. The day of my first chemotherapy treatment is somewhat of a blur now but I do remember sitting down in the chair in the treatment room and starting to cry. I was terrified as I realized that the nurse was about to pump horrible, destructive drugs into my body.
My husband looked at me and asked “Why are you crying?” I said, “It’s so overwhelming knowing what is about to happen to me, what I am about to go through.” He came and sat closer to me and held my hand, trying to comfort me. He had already been through countless appointments, surgeries, etc….with me, but he has never wavered. He has been by my side through many tears, pain, sleepless nights and so many other stages of fighting aggressive breast cancer.
I love you sweetie! Happy Anniversary and thank you for being my rock during the most difficult fight of my life! 💕
Early on in my breast cancer journey I heard about a free magazine for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers called “cure.” I received my first issue around the time I had my 2nd chemo treatment in early June and I found this magazine to be so helpful in understanding more about cancer. Today I received this issue and I wish I had this early on….there is some great information in this issue for newly diagnosed cancer patients.
A few days after finishing chemo I started going through some faily serious depression. I know that it doesn’t make sense…why would I be so depressed?? I made it through one of the most difficult parts of my treatment, when so many patients don’t for one reason or another, but I finished and on time as well. But once you are done with chemo the realization sets in that you are not done, that there are still several months to go. It has already been 9 months since this nightmare began and it doesn’t feel like the end is near….but it is…😟
My depression has been caused by several things and until now, I haven’t felt like sharing what I have been dealing with. I needed to wait until I was feeling stronger mentally and had turned a corner and was starting to really feel better. I have been going through physical and sensory changes as well as all of the emotional issues that go along with being a cancer patient.
Both of my big toe toenails have changed in texture, color and until recently were oozing a clear liquid from under my nails. Both of the nails are healing now, thanks to some ointment I am using, but I have been very much afraid of losing one or both of them for the last month. I could still lose both nails but I am doing what I can to keep that from happening. The toenail issue is just one of many Taxol side effects that is fairly common, but waited to effect me until the last few weeks of chemo.
I have been using a gel to help me keep my eyebrows and eyelashes and up until the last few chemo treatments it was working fairly well. But now, even though chemo is over and I am doing as directed, I have lost all but three eyelashes on my left eye and all of my eyelashes on the right eye. My eyebrows are slowly falling out as well and it seems that there is nothing I can do to stop it. I look more like a cancer patient now that I am done with chemo, than I did while I was at the height of my 4 1/2 months of treatments and it makes me sad…..I can barely look in the mirror.
I have also been dealing with some neuropathy in the finger tips of both of my hands. Now that I am three weeks out from ending chemo it is getting better but I am still dealing with it on a day to day basis. The sensations I am feeling in my finger tips should eventually go away with time, the sooner the better, as it is annoying to say the least.
The fatigue has been relentless, it doesn’t matter how much I sleep or rest, I get tired doing the simplest things and it has been a constant battle. When my fatigue was at its worst I would have my entire body hurt just from walking up the stairs in my house. The fatigue caused a big part of my stress just realizing that at this time last year I was running for 30 minutes straight a few times a week and running 10 flights of stairs a few times a week as well.
The steroids I have been given for the last 4 1/2 months caused me to gain weight while going through chemo. Yes, it is better to gain weight then lose it during chemo, but weight has always been an issue for me for most of my life. The weight gain was just another side effect that helped my depression get as bad as it was. I feel awful walking around with an extra 12lbs on my body but I of course am happy that I am alive and that I completed all of my treatments.
Lastly, chemo brain is a very real side effect of chemo treatments. At first I didn’t think I was suffering from it until a Saturday afternoon came along where we had to go back to two stores while out running our errands. I had forgotten to put things on our list that we needed and I thought I had marked everything off that we had on our list only to find that I had skipped them entirely and we left the store without them. That Saturday was a very rough day for me as I am usually so organized but it was obvious that I was not in control of my mind.
So let’s end this blog post on a positive note……My hair is starting to grow back! It is fine, light colored and in just a few areas here and there, but it is coming back in and it actually started growing a few weeks ago before I finished treatment. I am happy to say that the fatigue is improving, slowly, but improving none the less. I am hoping to start walking and building my strength back up very soon, and I will then start working on losing weight and getting back to where I was. Last of all, I realized early last week that the chemo brain is gone and I that I am feeling like I am in control of my mind once more and that I am truly starting to feel like myself again. 💕
Some people have asked me if I am done with my journey now that my chemotherapy treatments are over, and the answer is “No”. I will not be done until I have been through my 3rd surgery, radiation and follow-up imaging showing that there is no sign of cancer anywhere in my body. With that said, the piece I have shared below is so true…I have already been through some of these with more to come….😔
I have been doing OK since my last treatment. As usual I am tired, weak and run down. No amount of sleep or rest is enough at this point. I am tired of being tired….
Treatment went well today and it was quicker than normal because my nurse didn’t see that I have been getting the steroids and Benadryl mixed in a bag and given to me over a 45 minute time period. Luckily I didn’t have reactions to getting the meds quicker so that was good and it shaved close to an hour off of my time in the chair.
It’s a beautiful day in GA and I am feeling so much better after a very rough week! I am out and about with sweetie…going to our favorite market to buy the best fresh veggies! Have a great day everyone! 💕
“You are in the double digits now!” That is what my oncologist said to me this past Thursday when I went in for my 10th treatment of Taxol….only 2 to go and then I will be done! 😁
Without a doubt this has been the most difficult part of my chemo treatments, 12 straight weeks of Taxol. The fatigue has been crippling at times to where I can barely get out of bed, can’t walk without my whole body hurting, can’t go up the stairs in our house without getting out of breath and my body aching. It’s hard to believe that I was running 20 to 30 minutes, 5 days a week and getting 10 flights of stairs in on my Fitbit, 5 times a week as well, before I had the energy drain from my body back in December of last year.
The second part of my chemotherapy treatments consists of 12 treatments of Taxol. I started Taxol on July 18th and this time around the treatments are every week until October 8th. So, by the time I finish chemo in October I will have had a total of 16 treatments between all three drugs over a time period of almost 5 months….that is a long time when you look at it that way.
The first part of my chemotherapy treatments was a double dose of two drugs…..Adriamycin & Cytoxan. I started treatment on May 23rd, the day after my 15th wedding anniversary, and had 4 treatments every other week until July 5th. I had a Neulasta shot after each treatment and my blood was tested on my weeks off to monitor my white blood cell count.
As with most of the things I have been going through during this journey, I have had friends ask me a lot of questions about various things like side effects, my experiences with the drugs, my limitations at certain times of treatment, etc…. I can only speak for the information I have benn given by my oncologist and what I have found online, but those questions and a dear friend, brought me to the idea of writing this blog and sharing as much as I am comfortable with so that I can help friends, family, anyone reading this blog, more informed about breast cancer.