Anastrozole Check-up with My Oncologists PA

Today I had a check-up with the PA at my oncologists office to see how I am doing on Anastrozole. I have been taking it for about 5 1/2 months and I have been doing well. I was having problems with dizziness in the beginning so I changed the time of day that I take it from right before bedtime to when I wake up in the morning. I haven’t had a dizzy spell in a few weeks so it seems that my body has adjusted well.

First we went over my labs from the blood that they drew today. My white blood cell count is finally in the normal range, on the low end, but that was good to see as it means that my immune system is getting back to normal. My red blood cell count is still out of range, just a little low, so that goes along with me still fighting fatigue. I had one other value that was high but she said that it indicates that I have allergies to which I said “I don’t have allergies.” She laughed and said that as far as I know I don’t have allergies but I could be developing them….I hope not.

For the first time ever, she actually mentioned my weight but in a good way. She was happy to see that I have lost weight since the end of chemo, which was at the beginning of October last year, 27 lbs lost in total so far. She said that she knew it upset me to gain so much weight during chemo but she said that while going through chemo it is good to gain some weight because my body needed me to eat well. We agreed that my gaining weight helped me get through chemo as well as I did. She was also happy that I have been losing weight while taking Anastrozole because most women complain that they gain weight whileΒ  on it, which for me will be 10 years, so I will keep doing what I have been doing to get to my goal weight.

She also asked me how everything went with the second part of my reconstruction surgery that I had 11 weeks ago today. She was happy that my surgeon was able to get me on his schedule so quickly before my medical insurance ran out due to being laid off. She reminded me that it has only been 11 weeks since that surgery and since I have had so much surgery in the last year, it will still take some time for my body to recover from all of the trauma I have been through.

I asked her when the 5 year count starts as it is the main focus now that I am done with my treatments and surgeries. She said that in their office they start the count from when I completed all of my treatments, both chemotherapy and radiation, which was this year at the end of January. I then asked what the next steps are in their care for me as a cancer patient. I will continue to have check-ups every 3 months for the first 2 years after completing treatments, then every 6 months until I get to 5 years after treatments and after 5 years she said that most patients go back to seeing their regular doctor once a year. My chances of recurrence are at their highest until I get to 2 years, then it will drop a bit until I get to 5 years and then it will drop substantially after 5 years without recurrence.

We also talked about my next mammogram which is coming up in August. I am nervous about it and she assured me that especially with this being the first imaging done in over a year, it is completely normal for me to be worrying and nervous. I told her that am paranoid about the cancer coming back so I am checking my breasts often for anything that feels abnormal. But, I also told her that I am well aware that I have been through the maximum treatments for my type of cancer, having had both chemotherapy and radiation, plus having an excellent surgeon who removed all of the cancer; so keep reminding myself that there should not be anything visible in my mammogram.

So all in all I am doing well and getting healthier and stronger as I get further away from having ended chemotherapy, radiation and 4 surgeries. Here’s to another 3 months of continuing to improve! πŸ™‚

16 Months in Pictures

Mood: Amazed 😌

As I was looking through my pictures the other day I noticed that I have a picture of myself, taken in most months from when I was diagnosed with breast cancer up to the present time. So I decided to make a collection showing how I looked before breast cancer {the first picture} all the way up to how I look now {the last picture}. You can clearly see when the chemotherapy treatments really started to effect how I looked; the loss of my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, my skin getting dryer and my fine lines showing more.

It’s a given that the last 16 months have been hard on me both mentally and physically.Β  But, nothing tore me down and damaged me more than the chemotherapy treatments did. Chemotherapy took a part of me that I will never get back. When the chemotherapy treatments were over I realized how much the drugs and the stress of everything I had been through up to that point had aged me, a lot. Looking back through my pictures it’s easy to see how much my face has aged and it breaks my heart. I am doing what I can to undo the damage but it has not been an easy process.

Our Wedding Anniversary

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! πŸ’•

16 years and counting! πŸ’•

Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

By The American Cancer Society
Last Medical Review: September 18, 2019
Last Revised: September 18, 2019

Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Although having regular screening tests for breast cancer is important, mammograms do not find every breast cancer. This means it’s also important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or round. They can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by an experienced health care professional.

Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)

Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care professional so the cause can be found.

Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer early, before any symptoms appear. Finding breast cancer early gives you a better chance of successful treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Cure Magazine

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.

Please don’t get me wrong, all three of my doctors are amazing and have always taken the time to listen to me and answer all of my questions, but sometimes extra information can be helpful as well. I try not to flood myself with too much information as it can be depressing, confusing and it can make everything even more overwhelming than it already is.

Free Subscription for cure magazine

Free bulk subscriptions are available for physicians, cancer centers and other organizations.

My Support System

Mood: Grateful πŸ™‚

Every cancer patient needs a good support system. I am very blessed to have many different moving parts to mine, and I feel that it is time to give them credit in not only helping me through my journey, but also being a constant in my life since I had the difficult task of telling them about my breast cancer.

God: I have cursed him, screamed at him asking “why?” but my faith has not wavered. I may not understand why I have breast cancer but I know that God has always protected me in my life and will continue to do so as long as I am alive.

Matt {my husband}: Sadly I have read many stories about cancer patients being abandoned by their spouse, boyfriend, partner, etc… I get it, caring for someone going through such a difficult journey is not easy. You need to not only be strong for your loved one, but also for yourself. This is a long journey that lasts for well over a year with constant ups and downs, doctors appointments, surgeries and treatments and my husband has been by my side for all of it….I am so blessed to have him in my life! I will never be able to thank him enough for everything he has done for me during this terrible time. I love you so much sweetie!

My Dad & Brother: I do not have any family where my husband and I live. My Dad is in the Midwest where I grew up and my brother lives in Japan. Even though I do not have either of them near me, we talk often either on the phone, via email or messenger. I keep them updated on what is going on with me both good and bad. I know they wish they could do more for me but honestly just listening to me when I need them is beyond valuable to me. I love you both so much!

My Friends: I can’t possibly mention everyone so I will just discuss how various friends have been there for me since telling them about my diagnosis. I sent private messages to my closest friends on messenger to tell them the news. It was hard telling them, but it was the right thing for me to do. I didn’t want them finding out via Facebook once I was brave enough to post about what was happening, I love and respect my friends too much to have them find out that way. Almost all of them started asking me questions and checking on me here and there which I really appreciated. You never know how people will react when you tell them such terrible news but I have received nothing but love and support. Once I posted the news on Facebook I discovered that some of the women I know either online or in real life are either fighting breast cancer currently, just got diagnosed or have been through it in the past. It has been so helpful to me to talk with other women that understand what I am going through and so rewarding for me to have other patients thank me for being so open and honest in this blog. For me to make a difference in someone’s life is a blessing that I never expected, so thank you Linda for suggesting that I write this blog.

My Doctors: I am active on a few different apps for cancer patients and it is a double edged sword at times. One of the sad things I have noticed is the poor care that some patients receive from their doctors. Reading about doctors yelling at cancer patients, surgeons leaving large horrible scars on a woman’s chest and leaving patients with more questions than answers is horrible and terrifying. After reading of such horrors and seeing pictures as evidence, I have no doubt in my mind that I have been blessed with the best doctors to care for me and help me through my journey. I have three doctors, an amazing surgeon who is also a breast specialist so he has done all of my surgeries and has been with me from the beginning, an oncologist and a radiation oncologist. My surgeon reffered me to my oncologist, who reffered me to my radiation oncologist. My doctors work very closely together and I absolutely trust them to do what is best for me as we fight breast cancer together….they are my team and they fighting right along side of me! I will never be able to thank them enough for everything they have done for me and are continuing to do as my journey is not over yet.

My Hospital: All of my doctors are near or on the Gwinnett Medical Center campus. There is one building in particular where I have spent most of my time in from the beginning of this journey. In that building I have my surgeon, the surgery center where I had reconstructive surgery, my oncologist, the room where I had 16 chemotherapy treatments, the breast center where my wires were placed for my cancer surgery, the cancer support center and there is a rep for the American Cancer Society located there as well. The cancer support center in particular has been so helpful. I was assigned a breast nurse navigator who has been with me from my first appointment with my surgeon to present day. I told her how terrified I was of my first surgery as I had never had one before. I was shocked when she showed up at the hospital the morning of my surgery to bring me a bag of goodies and sit with me for awhile. I was crying alone in a waiting room when she showed up, I was so scared. My husband was not allowed to come back and see me yet so being alone and being terrified was just too much for me….thank God she showed up when she did. So now it is 10 months later and she stills calls to check on me and see if I need any help with anything, if I need to contact any of the many resources her office offers or just need to talk….I am so grateful for her! It is a shame that more hospitals do not offer such an excellent resource!

I have many people to be so thankful for, and I truly believe that it has made all of the difference in my journey! Love you all! πŸ’•