Tag Archive | ACT chemotherapy

Enduring Breast Cancer Survivor


This may be a controversial post, I’m just warning you.  Maybe not, depending on how you view what I feel.  I’m a breast cancer survivor although I abhor the badge survivor.  Yes, I survived breast cancer and have for almost 16 years, but I am not one of those who go to the Pinktober or Breast Cancer Walks with pink frilly enthusiasm.  It’s just not me.

I think it’s nice that people unite for those walks to raise money for research, but in the sixteen years since I was diagnosed, there have been a few strides, but not many.  So where’s the funding going?

There are thousands of items bedazzled with the pink ribbon during Breast Cancer Awareness month that are for sale.  While I appreciate it, I also feel the superficiality of it.  For enduring breast cancer isn’t all pink ribbons.

It’s grueling surgeries, treatments and fear-induced sleepless nights.  Like all life threatening situations, it requires bravery to face our inevitable death, with the threat of it coming too soon.  I was 34 years old when I was diagnosed out of the blue, having found an M&M sized lump in my breast.  Complete shock overtook me on that New Year’s Eve in 2001 when the diagnosis was delivered.

Fast forward to 2017 after having endured countless surgeries, chemotherapy (ACT) and radiation, not to mention a double mastectomy, two implant replacements and then a radical replacement of my breasts with my own fat tissue instead of implants because my body kept rejecting them, I’ve been through the ringer like many people have in my situation.  I’ve lost my hair, been in menopause since 2003 and aged faster than my friends because of the illness.  I have lingering effects from the cancer which include chronic fatigue which I battle daily.  The funny thing about the chronic fatigue is that most people just don’t understand what I experience because I look normal (or as normal as possible).  But that’s a whole different post.

However, the word survivor when applied to my breast cancer experience sticks in my craw.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I merit the word survivor.  Victims of the Holocaust merit the word survivor, people who survived horrendous experiences merit the word survivor in my book.  But for me, no.

Me, I endured breast cancer.  While its aftereffects still play a role in my daily life, I am gratefully still here.  Sure, I have had more threats to my health than I can count anymore.  I am tested routinely due to other complications and I have endured countless uncomfortable tests and more sleepless nights than I want to remember.

The term survivor to me is having lived through something awful and to be able to go on afterwards.  Maybe that’s how some people feel about their diagnosis in the breast cancer world.  For me, it’s not a been there, done that, wear the pink sparkly t-shirt and smile.  It’s still enduring the illness in whatever shape and form it reemerges.

The Presents of Presence emerged from my journey with breast cancer.  In being present with my feelings, acknowledging the gifts in this moment and in taking the time to be mindful, spiritual and experiencing all that presence allows, is how I live my life now.  I am still a work in progress.  I thank you for reading my post today, for holding my hand when needed, for your kindness and connections and for showing your heartlight as a beacon of hope for others.

Shine On!





How to Deal with Chemotherapy


Go ahead, introduce me to this ‘cancer’ fella…

Together, with our combined forces of hope, perseverance, positive thinking

and butt-kicking skills…

We can beat this thing


I mean…remission.

I endured ACT chemo back in 2002 ~ 8 rounds given once every 3 weeks.  So for me, I was feeling yucky for the first 2 weeks but the 3rd week was my ‘party week” as much as you can ‘party’ while dealing with breast cancer.  Party for me meant that I got out of the house, perhaps lunch with a friend or if I had the energy, a bit of window shopping.  My friends and family made sure that the last week before my next round of chemo was for fun so that when I was knocked down the following week, I had some fun memories in my back pocket and then I also had something to look forward to 3 weeks ahead!

I met with a nurse who had endured chemo at my oncologist office and she gave me a few tips which I pass on whenever I hear of someone who will be having chemo.   There’s also a few things you should know about what this chemo does to you.  So hold my hand…and I’ll help if I can.  Please know that these are simply suggestions based on my experience.  As you know, I”m not a doctor so please check with your own physician and nurses.

PORT:  I had a port, which I loved because it meant that I only had one needle.  Of course, that needle still pinched when it went in, but because my veins weren’t very hardy, it was easier and safer for me to have my chemo directly inserted into my veins through my port.  Ports don’t hurt and you hardly know they are there in case you are thinking of getting one.  I do suggest that you wear a front buttoning shirt or zippered jacket so that the nurse can access the port easily and you can stay covered as chemo takes awhile and you will be there for a few hours.

NEVER EVER EAT YOUR FAVORITE MEAL THE NIGHT BEFORE CHEMO!  That was a rule I was given before I had my first session and it’s stayed with me.  Do you know why?  Because if you throw it up after chemo, it will never be your favorite meal again!  It was a cardinal rule for me and even though I only threw up the first night of my first chemo session, I never chanced it.

The night before chemo and the first few days after your chemotherapy, eat bland foods and nothing greasy.  You do not want to aggravate your stomach any more than it will already be with the chemo drugs, so take it easy.  I remember I came home from my first chemo session and I wanted mashed potatoes.  Listen to your body and it will steer you in the right direction.  Bland, non-greasy foods are always good for you during chemo as you may feel nauseous afterwards and greasy foods will aggravate your stomach.  Also, make sure you take your anti-nausea pills on time and as prescribed even if you are not nauseous.  For once you get that nausea feeling, it’s hard to shake it.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

What to Wear:  For chemo sessions, I suggest wearing something comfy as you will be there for a few hours.  There’s nothing like being in something stretchy and warm so that if you are given a recliner, you can relax while you have your chemo.  Also, you will be weighed every time, so it’s easier if are wearing the same type of clothing so you can monitor your weight better.  Not that it really matters, that was my own hangup as I did gain weight on chemo due to steroids etc.

What to Bring:  Because every oncology office is different, you may be able to have your loved one with you while you are there, but some offices, like the one I was at, didn’t allow family in the chemo room.  So, I used to bring a book to read which honestly, I don’t think I ever really read more than once.  You see, sometimes you start chatting with the patients around you as you are all in the same boat, all receiving chemotherapy.  Because your sessions are usually the same day, same time, you get to know the others who are receiving their chemo treatments on a similar schedule as yours and you begin to bond with them.  It always amazed me how we made almost instantaneous friendships at chemo.  I was blessed that the oncology nurses I had were such kind-hearted people who were so loving towards us.  It made it ‘almost’ fun to hang out there (ok, you know I don’t mean it) but it was the people, the nurses, the doctors who made the chemo easier to handle.  I hope that you are as blessed as I was…

Food:  Because you are there for hours, we were usually given ginger ale (which helps with nausea), water or apple juice and sometimes even ice pops.  I liked to snack on cheez its which aren’t very nutritious, but they were bland and a little crunchy and for some reason, they helped me with nausea.  See what your doctor and nurses recommend.  Stay hydrated.  Eat small meals which help with nausea as well.

ACT Chemo HAIR LOSS:  2-3 weeks after your first chemo, you will lose your hair.  All of your hair.  The hair on your head, your eyelashes, eyebrows, the hair in your nose, the hair on your legs (yup, no shaving them for awhile!), the hair under your arms and (Rated Mature:  you will even have that popular Brazilian waxed look without ever having to endure the pain of being waxed!)  So you will need to deal with your hair coming out which for some women in particular, is a hard piece of the chemo trauma.  For me, I knew I had to do something when my hair began coming out in clumps in my hands when I was in the shower.  It was mind-blowing for me.  It struck me in my gut in the most awful way.  So my husband and I took matters into our own hands. You can read about it here.

American Cancer Society has a great program called Look Good Feel Better click here to find more info  which is a great way to learn some make up tips on how to draw on eyebrows etc and make yourself feel prettier with new makeup all for free!  While you are there, you can even bond with other women who are fighting cancer as well.  There are also opportunities to be fitted with a great-looking wig for free with your local American Cancer Society.  You can also purchase turbans and scarves to keep your head warm in the cold winter months because quite frankly, a bald head gets chilly at night!  And if you should need breast forms and even stick on nipples while you are awaiting reconstruction, you can get those there as well.  ACS is a great resource.  You can even ask to talk with a Reach to Recovery volunteer who will be hand-picked for you.  This woman understands what you are dealing with because she’s been there already.  ACS will try to match you with someone who is most like you ~ age, marital status, children, stage of cancer, type of surgeries, chemo, radiation etc.  For years I was a Reach to Recovery Volunteer.  It makes a difference to know someone understands what you are going through without having to explain.

I hope this list helps you as you are dealing with cancer, chemotherapy and all the rest of the mess that encompasses fighting the disease.  You can do this ~ believe me, I am/was the wimpiest girl ever who endured breast cancer!  I still feel faint at the sight of any needle, but I know that…

You can do this.  I will help you.  I believe in you.

So reach out,  take hold of my hand.  You’ve got a friend in me. 

I’m always here for you with a smile and with understanding.

Shine On!


Daily Prompt ~ Standing Out in Confusion

76020927_I admit, I am different.  There.  I said it.  Many times I feel like I’m out of place ~ and sometimes when I speak, my hubby has to translate what I’m saying.  It’s not that I’m speaking Spanish or any other language at the time.  It’s just that sometimes, I think differently than others and it doesn’t quite translate when I try to explain myself.

For example, like today, I enjoy getting one of those emails that has a goofy gobbling singing turkey ~ and I like to send it along!  Mind you, I try to only send it to those whom I think will giggle at the gobbler, but sometimes my giggling gobbler is met with annoyance.  For as much as I’m busy throughout my day and enjoy getting a giggle break, there are others whom do not find it amusing.  And I feel sorry for them.  By the way, I don’t do it often either so it’s not like there’s a barrage of stupid emails that I send out!

Then there’s when I want to say something that I think is really important and the words simply and suddenly elude me.  So I’ll start strong, speaking fluently and then just stop.  Dead stop.  And I can’t think of what I am trying to say.  It’s so frustrating to me and it’s frustrating for whomever I’m speaking with!  I know, I get it.  But it’s more worrisome to me than it is to my listener as it reminds me that after 15 surgeries, there are some definite brain cells missing that haven’t found their way home and probably won’t at this point.  Which could make me sad, but instead, I try to look on the bright side ~ I will survive ~ I can speak, I can understand and I can tell those closest to me that I love them!

I’m aware of my goofyness ~ I’m aware that I think differently than most people.  I’m most definitely aware that my body is scarred and not the form that most women are ~ and that bothers me too.  It’s hard to be a 40 something year old woman who has the skin, the hair, the body of a much older woman due to breast cancer and all that it involves.   It’s difficult to not feel most parts of my body due to being numbed by multiple surgeries.  It’s not a blessing to feel this insecure about how I look even though I try to pretend that I’m ok with the reality.

For the record, I’m not ok with it.  But I can’t go back so I just keep inching forward.  It’s all I can do really.

I’m not saying this for pity’s sake. I’m just telling you the reality of the disease.  Chemo packs a punch to the system, changes our skin, our hair and our bodies and minds forever.  Radiation does this as well.  Not to mention the foremost physical part which is damaging mentally and emotionally as well which is the removal of our breasts and the huge scars that are left in their place.  The loss of feeling, the loss of intimacy.  There’s a lot to it.

But nobody talks about those things which always surprises me.  When Angelina Jolie had her breasts removed prophelatically, people applauded.  But the reality is that her breasts were removed, the feeling in parts of her breasts was removed as well and that was never mentioned once.  I don’t mean to start a firestorm here because I too had both removed and only one had cancer at the time so I understand her motives.  I’m just saying that it’s not so easy.

Whew…how in the world did I get on this vein of thinking today, I’ll never know.  Perhaps there’s a reader out there who needed a little bit of understanding and camaraderie.  So if there is, then this one’s for you and my post in not all in vain.

Be Yourself.  Love Yourself.

Shine On!


P.S.  Want the Gobbler Giggle?  Click here!

Let me know if you sang along, I Will Survive!

Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion

Tell us about a time when you felt out of place.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONFUSION.



I mean it, never again!


I’m never doing that again!  Bring it on!  I won’t endure chemo again!

I remember saying the above to my MIL (Mother-in-Law) one day after returning home from another brutal ACT chemo treatment.  Bald, nauseous, tired and achy, I told her and anyone else who dared to listen to me that day that I was only doing this once (meaning the chemo regime) and God/Doctors/Cancer better bring it on because I wouldn’t be doing this again.  I would give my whole heart/soul/strength into fighting and enduring the chemo now, but that I was never doing it again because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!

Years later, my MIL has recounted this story to me saying that in her head, she clearly remembers thinking, “Oh yes you will if you have to ~ I’ll make sure of it.”

It’s funny that I’ve been writing so much about breast cancer these days.  I don’t mean to be giving you a barrage of Pink Posts, but I guess it’s on my mind and these Daily Prompts just make it so easy to explain how I felt.  I think that with illness or tragedy, we just numbly go through the paces in order to try to reach the other side of the dark tunnel.    We soldier on as it is, baby step by baby step until we feel like we can’t do any more and that’s when the “I’m never doing this again,” foot stomping, tear-induced demands, written in stone in our minds are said.  We will endure this now, but we aren’t doing it again.  At least that’s how it was for me.

And I’ve been blessed (Oh my, did I just say BLESSED?  Yup, and I meant it!) to not have had to endure chemo again, although I’ve been dragged through a multitude of surgeries and complications since 2002 when I had my 6 months of chemotherapy.

So I guess for the point of the Daily Prompt, chemotherapy and all the accoutrements that envelope the protocol that specialists prescribe fits today’s ‘tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!”  Don’t you think so?

Be Healthy ~ Be happy

Enjoy the Presents of Presence!

Shine On!


Daily Prompt: Never Again

Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” Tell us about it.



DP ~ Transforming My Life


You have Breast Cancer

On New Year’s Eve 2001, at 1:15pm, the above words were barely out of the mouth of the breast surgeon who had taken 17 biopsies of my lump when my life was forever changed in an instant.  A single piece of paper confirmed the pathology of the lump and my life was immediately mapped out by science and not by me.  All of the plans I had laid with such good intentions went down the drain in that single moment.  My life, my body, my relationships, my future were suddenly not as I’d expected them to be and surprisingly, I was not that surprised.

For you see, I found the lump in November, but between doctor appointments, mammograms and life, the biopsy was not done until the day after Christmas that year.  The day after I hosted Christmas dinner with my husband and our families.  My last non-cancerous Christmas.  And the night before the news was given to me that I had Breast Cancer, I had dreamed that I had it and so when she told me the next day, I wasn’t really surprised.  In fact, I was so calm that she told me I was in shock and that I needed to come back the day after New Years so that she could deliver the future plans of how the doctors would proceed in treating me.  But I was calm, I knew. I heard everything she said and what hit me most was that I was not going to be able to return to teaching.  That’s what stuck in my head.  Not the lumpectomy and subsequent double mastectomy, not the ACT type of chemotherapy which makes all of your hair fall out, not the 6 weeks of radiation to follow.  Nope, it was that I wouldn’t be finishing out the year in my school.  Strange isn’t it what we think when confronted by this type of news?

My life took on a surreal aura after that ~ one that included many tears, much anxiety and a deeper understanding of myself.  I had never been the strong type or so I thought, but when confronted with the possibility of not being around for my boys ages 1 and 3, like an angry Mama Tiger I launched into fighting for my life.  Most of my family didn’t believe I could endure the journey of what I was about to embark on as I have always been a bit weak with pain.  But somehow, knowing that my husband believed I could do it and knowing that he would stand by my side and endure it with me, I was able to conjure up the inner strength needed to live and to supersede all expectations.

It is that priceless gift that my hubby gave me that changed us in an instant as well for this cancer journey hasn’t been easy for either one of us.  The patient has a tough time enduring the treatments, but it’s the spouse/significant other/caretaker who is the silent unsung hero.  It’s my hubby who knows what goes on after all of the family goes home.  It’s HE who holds me when I cry and I’ve just had enough.  He’s the one who understands and it’s to him that I look to for strength when mine is depleted.  It’s HIS face that I search for when I wake up after every surgery (and I’ve endured 15 so far with more to go).

Life goes on for everyone else after time which is good because who wants to be constantly reminded that you’ve endured Breast Cancer?  It’s bad enough to be reminded every morning when I shower and dress or when I have to be tested every 6 months or when I have health complications from it.  Breast Cancer affects life daily after diagnosis ~ it’s in every part of my life ~ even though I try very hard to ignore it.

I refuse to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me ~ there’s been a bit of a scuttlebutt in the breast cancer world recently with that line.  However, I will say that it enriched my life.  It made me dig deeper into my soul.  I can never go back to the girl that I was on 12/30/01, but I don’t think that I’d want to now.  This girl of 8/6/2013 is a better person ~ psychologically, emotionally, spiritually ~ a better parent, a more loving partner and a most grateful human being.  I am still in the process of accepting the new me ~ it’s a challenge some days, but it’s one that I will continue to work my little Tiger Mama ass off in order to triumph!

You have to find the good in every situation.

Who knew ~ sometimes change is necessary!

Shine On!



Daily Prompt: Everything Changes

Walking down the street, you encounter a folded piece of paper on the sidewalk. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TRANSFORMATION.



Daily Prompt ~ Changes!


Change is beautifully inevitable

Daily Prompt: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You need to make a major change in your life. Do you make it all at once,

cold turkey style, or incrementally?

For me, changes have never been subtle in my life.  They’ve arrived cold turkey style and left me scrambling to start swimming in order to not drown under the tsunami of change.  Many of the changes took me a long time to come to terms with as some of them were life altering as many changes can be.  Take for instance being diagnosed with an illness such as cancer ~ or being told of the death of a loved one.  Those changes are life altering in and of themselves and they are changes which do not allow for a u-turn in the road of life.  You just have to keep swimming with the tide afterwards.

So I have turned to the cold turkey style of change as my comfort zone in life even though it may take me baby steps in time to allow for the adjustment that the change brings so in that case, I guess my answer is both incrementally and cold turkey!  The change itself, is cold turkey style, but the adjustment which occurs after it, is incremental.  Does that make sense?

For example, when I had my double mastectomy due to breast cancer, even though I was reconstructed in the OR so that I wouldn’t awaken without some type of mound on my chest, the change was most definitely cold turkey style.  There is nothing like falling asleep with my own soft breasts only to awaken with hard, unmoving and cold lumps called tissue expanders under the skin where previously there was warmth.  It took me a long time to be able to change my thoughts, my feelings about myself and find a new normal in accepting my new body, life and scars.  And I won’t say it is easy because it’s not, but I will say it is do-able and this gal who I am now, has a much richer life than before she was diagnosed in 2001.

Even when I was losing my hair due to the ACT chemotherapy that I was taking, I opted to cut off my own hair cold turkey and then incrementally go bald!  Once my hair began coming out in clumps in the shower which is an emotional roller coaster ride even though I knew it was going to happen, I decided to take control over my life and in turn, over the breast cancer that riddled my body.  With a bottle of champagne in one hand and my hair festooned with pink ribbon pony tails, my husband and I celebrated my taking control over my cancer.  Celebratory swigs bonded us as I carefully cut off the pony tails to my scalp, holding the clumps of hair by the pink ribbons.  I remember with the first cut that I couldn’t’ stop giggling because what woman in her right mind takes a pair of scissors to her head and chops off a clump of her hair?  I mean really?  But I did it and it was freeing!  Oh so freeing!

I took off about 10 pony tails (which I still have 2 of my original hair) and looked into the mirror.  All was fun and joyous until I realized that I had big clumps of missing hair on my head.  My gentle and sweet husband to whom I am still so grateful to be married, kissed and held me and then proceeded to cut my hair into a really short pixie style a la Mia Farrow.  (Thank goodness he wasn’t drinking as much champagne as I was that day!)

When he was finished, we looked into the bathroom mirror together and he held me ~ cradling me with his love ~ and he told me that ‘this too shall pass’ for which I believed him.

The next morning, my pillow looked as if a cat had slept on it as it was covered with my pixie short hairs which broke my heart.  So that night, my husband buzzed my head so that I wouldn’t have to awaken with the sadness of looking at my pillow and it was better for me.  Done ~ cold turkey ~ and I felt as though I could move on with my wig, my scarves and my hats.

I have walked through hell and have kept walking for which I am so grateful and I believe that’s why I write my blog ~ because I want to inspire and be inspired by all of you.  For you see, change is inevitable in our lives, so we have to keep evolving, keep flowing with our lives and keep taking baby steps forward.  We can change our course of direction at any time, but we can’t go backwards.  We can only stand still when we need to rest and then begin again.

What makes the changes easier is when we allow ourselves to connect with others on this lifetime journey.  Taking hold of a hand which is offered to you eases the transition of change.  It’s in those moments when we realize that we are all connected here and that change can be beautiful.  Keep smiling!

Shine On!