I have had several doctor’s appointments over the last two months, seeing my oncologist twice, my surgeon, and having my annual mammogram done.
On Monday, September 12th, I had my monthly oncologist appointment to chat with my doctor, check my blood, and get my Faslodex injections. As far as my bloodwork is concerned, it is a little better. My white blood cell count went up a little bit from last month, so my ANC went up as well, which is good. My PA explained that my white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and ANC levels would go up and down from month to month, but it is normal, and as long as I am not too far off from a normal range, there is no reason to worry.
Friday, September 16th: I had my annual mammogram appointment. This appointment is made along with my annual check-up with my surgeon, so he orders the mammogram and then follows up to do my annual exam and go over my results. My mammogram appointments are not routine, mainly because of the scar tissue I have from my surgeries. As usual, they had to do extra imaging, but at least this time, I didn’t have to go through an ultrasound as well as a mammogram. The hospital has a 3D mammogram machine now so that they can get amazingly clear images. The tech I had was the same one I saw back in 2019, and she was very open about showing me the side-by-side pictures from 2019 and now. It was both sad and a relief to see the comparison because my tumors were very easy to see in 2019, just as it is easy to see that there is nothing in my imaging now to be concerned about. My appointment took 3 hours; as I said, not routine, but when I leave, I had my results in my hand, which was a relief because I didn’t have to wait until the following week when I saw my surgeon. All of my imaging was clear, with no sign of cancer.
Wednesday, September 21st: I went to see my surgeon for my annual check-up and to discuss my mammogram results. As soon as he walked into the exam room, he asked me about having a biopsy done on one of the ribs on my back, so I explained the imaging I had that led up to my getting the biopsy. Once we discussed what I had been through since I last saw him in February, he went through my annual exam. He said that I might have some slight capsular contracture developing in both breasts. I was alarmed by this news, but at this time, I am not overly concerned as I am not in any pain, and I can’t physically feel anything myself. But my surgeon is the expert. So if he feels something, then I believe him; he certainly knows better than I do. He mentioned a few times that I don’t have to limit my visits to once a year, so I agreed and said I would feel better if he kept a closer eye on things, so we decided to do a checkup every six months. I love that my surgeon genuinely cares about his patients and that I can fully trust him.
My oncologist appointment on October 11th was pretty routine. My white blood cell count dropped by .1, but again, it will fluctuate a little from month to month, so there is no reason to be worried. This time my Faslodex injection on the right side hurt for days. I do have some discomfort, usually in the evening after I have had my injections, but this time the pain lasted for days. I can’t explain why it hurt so much this time, but I am sure the thickness of the medicine is part of it. Unfortunately, I now dread the injection part of my appointments, but I must have them because the treatment will help keep my cancer from spreading more than it already has.
I’m sorry for the late update. I have been struggling with several things but mainly with depression. I might write about it in the future, but for now, I need to keep the details to myself. All I can say is that having stage 4 cancer is hard, especially mentally and emotionally. People compliment me on how good I look, and I appreciate that because I try my best not to look as ill as I feel on any given day. On the bad days, I stay at home because I can’t face people, and on the good days, especially days when I have little to no fatigue, I get out of the house or do a workout; anything I can do to take advantage of feeling better on that particular day.
Take care and remember, tomorrow is never promised, so live your life as best as you can. Be kind to people, treat people the way you want to be treated, and don’t judge people; you have no idea what someone else is going through, so always be kind and keep hate out of your heart. 💕
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A few days ago, on Tuesday, I found a lump on the left side of my neck at the base right where my neck curves into my shoulder; the same side of my body where my breast cancer was, and the same side where I had all of the terrible pain in my head. I was reading through my emails, playing with my necklace as I often do, and my fingers felt something odd. I took off my necklace to investigate further, and it felt exactly like the tumor I found in my breast a little over three years ago, as this one is a small round bump with a lump next to it.
It should be no surprise that I went into full panic mode. I thought about what to do next and called my husband. I told him about what I found and that I thought about calling my oncologist, but I knew he would want imaging done. I then remembered that my surgeon has a mobile ultrasound machine at his office, so it made sense to see him first and have him do an ultrasound. My husband agreed with my decision, so I called my surgeon’s office to see if I could get an appointment the following day, yesterday, which is an office day for him to see patients. Luckily, I was able to get an afternoon appointment to see him and have the ultrasound done.
During my appointment, he first took a look with the ultrasound at the lump I described to him, then he looked at the lymph nodes under my left arm. He couldn’t find anything unusual under my arm, and he said that he was not sure what the lump was on my neck, other than a mass. He asked me if I had contacted my oncologist yet, and I explained that I hadn’t called him because I knew he would want imaging, so I wanted to see him, my surgeon, first for the ultrasound. Then he asked if I wanted to do a PET scan or a biopsy first as we need to find out what we are dealing with this time. I asked his opinion and told him that I trust his judgment, which I do without question, and we agreed that a biopsy should be done first, and then if it comes back positive, we will do a PET scan to see if I have any other tumors in my body. So early in the morning on Friday, I will go back to his office, and he will do a needle biopsy. He gave me the option of being asleep during the biopsy or using the needle with a local, and I chose the needle because I didn’t see the need to be put to sleep for a biopsy after having five surgeries in twenty-two months.
Quite honestly, I am scared. I would go into more about my fear, but it touches on what I am not ready to share yet. The only comfort I have right now is that I already know the possible next steps, no surprises this time, which of course is both good and bad.
I will update as soon as I have my biopsy results which should be some time between late Friday and Monday.
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.
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!
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! 🙂 💕
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.