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.  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.

After Chemo Treatments Are Over

Mood: Depressed 😫

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. 💕

Saturday Fun

October 5th, 2019

Mood: Happy 😁

We had a busy but good day….weekly shopping, went to a local fair with a dear friend to watch a friend of ours sing, had an amazing dinner on the way home. A busy day fighting fatigue as I try to get stronger and as back to normal as I can before my next surgery.

I finally got to relax on the couch at about 11:30pm but it was well worth every minute….and yes, finally a pic of me without a wig on. 💕

Taxol #11

Mood: Accomplished 😁

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.

I have a plan in place for my month off between chemo and surgery. I will work on getting back on my treadmill and using our weight machine. The steroids have not been kind to me as I have gained almost 20lbs during my 4 1/2 months on chemo. I know that it is better to gain weight during treatment rather than losing it, but I feel yucky with the extra weight. I haven’t worked out since December so I am anxious to get back to it. I will be very careful so I don’t cause any injuries that would delay me further. I will be dealing with a weakened body so I will only walk for 20 to 30 minutes in the beginning, making sure that I am moving but not pushing it too much like I normally would do.

Getting treatment….I can’t believe it’s almost over! 😁

I have to admit, I am going to miss Thursdays off with my husband, but not the reason why. He has been my rock through what is easily the most difficult battle of my life and it isn’t over yet…..I am almost 2/3 of the way done.

Breast Cancer & Chemotherapy….My Truth

What they say is true, from finding the first tumor during a self exam, to my diagnosis to finishing my entire treatment plan, undergoing multiple surgeries and getting a prescription for the drug that I will take for 10 years; an entire year will have gone by….for some patients it is far longer.

A year of heartache, struggle, crying, asking “why??”, good days and bad days, all of it starting with the words “you have breast cancer, more specifically, “invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2b.” A year of missing time with family and friends, a year of missing and changing plans that had been made in advance, a year of feeling and looking sick.

It is also true that every patient is different. There are so many types of cancer and there are so many factors that go into determining the treatment that is given such as health, age, size of tumors, etc…. I am constantly reminded by my oncologist, and honestly just by looking around the treatment room, that I am young for my type of cancer and I am much healthier than most patients, even with the weight I have gained from the steroids.

My chemo treatment at the hospital starts with weighing in and giving 2 vials of blood. It is important for my oncologist to check specific levels in my blood before sending me down the hall for my chemo treatment. I can’t even count how many times I have been stuck with a needle from the beginning of all of this in late January to now….but during chemo I will have given blood every week, even during my weeks off, from May 23rd to October 3rd, that is 16 treatments in total. Sometimes I am left with a bruise like the one below, but more often than not, you can barely see where the needle went in.

During my first surgery I went from stage 2b to stage 3. My surgeon ended up taking out 18 lymph nodes instead of the 3 to 5 we were expecting, and they all tested positive for cancer, making my cancer not only invasive but aggressive as well, so that is why I am undergoing a more aggressive treatment plan with my oncologist. For the rest of my life I will not be able to have my blood drawn or my blood pressure taken from my left arm due to all of the lymph nodes that were removed. I am also still dealing with numbness on the left side of my breast and under my arm. I am hoping that eventually I will get all of my feeling back, but there is no guarantee.

I am nearing the end of my chemotherapy treatments and I am relieved. I have 3 treatments to go and I am ready for them to be over with. The fatigue has gotten to the point where I can easily be out of breath and having my body ache just going up one flight of stairs in my house. I feel tired all of the time, even after getting a good night of sleep, just tired and worn out. It is so hard to describe but I just don’t feel well most of the time, I don’t feel like me, and I have been this way since last Christmas. Once chemo is over I should start to feel normal in a matter of weeks…..I can’t wait for that to happen!

I will have one month off after my chemotherapy treatments end. During that time my body will start to heal, my hair will start to grow back and the drugs that are still in my system will flush out of me. Once the month is over I will have my reconstruction surgery and my port will also be removed at that time. I will have the same surgeon that did my first two surgeries, Dr. Schwartz. I am scared of the surgery but I am really looking forward to it at the same time! 😁