Tag Archive | breast reconstruction

How to Deal with Chemotherapy

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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

INTO SUBMISSION!

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!

xo

Pink Post ~ Breast Cancer Implant Pain

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So it’s another Pink Post today ~ perhaps because I”m facing yet another surgery next month that I feel that this is pertinent today ~ or perhaps because I’ve been shopping for a bathing suit which is a challenge to most women, but to a woman who’s lost her breasts, it’s especially difficult.  Being pasty white due to the still winter season here makes the imperfections stand out in that lonely dressing room mirror ~ don’t you think?  I mean, even if you’re just a regular gal, it’s daunting to bathing suit shop at any time.

It is hard to accept the new normal when dealing with the physical changes that breast cancer brings to your life.  If you’ve had breast cancer,  you know that there are restrictions in the top area of a suit.  No underwire and sometimes we need a bit of oomph in that area ~ ok, who am I kidding, we always need a bit of oomph there!  If you’ve endured a mastectomy (single or bilateral), you may require prosthetics or perhaps you’ve had reconstruction or perhaps you’ve opted for neither.  Either way, if you’re bathing suit shopping, it’s a hassle.

I had implants ~ I endured surgeries for 2 sets of silicone ~ one in 2002 when the only option was the flat, round type which we jokingly referred to as stripper boobs and the second in 2007 which again were silicone, but these were billed as the fancy shmancy tear-drop shaped, gummie bear implants which were to give a girl that hershey kiss natural look!  Oh la la!

Well, bottom line for me was that my body disliked any implants and twisted them up inside of my breasts so that I endured terrible pain 24/7.  In fact, it wasn’t until 2012 when I had to have them removed because one ruptured and leaked that I realized the amount of pain that I’d accepted as my new normal.  But like the butterfly which transforms from the egg, to the caterpillar, to the pupa and finally to the beautiful butterfly ~ it’s how I feel about my breast cancer journey.  11 years ago, my breasts were removed to save my life ~ implants were used to make me look normal ~ and unfortunately, they twisted and turned inside me until one ruptured ~ and now I’ve transformed again ~ using my own skin and flesh to make real warm breasts from my own body ~ which won’t twist, rupture or be rejected!  It’s amazing to me now to be pretty much pain free without my implants.

Even more amazing to me is that I have breasts again…I’ve come full circle.  11 years later, my body is mangled, scarred and numb in many places, but I have breasts again ~ squishy, fleshy, warm breasts.  If you’ve been on the breast cancer journey, you’ll understand the mind-blowing significance of my statement and of the life changing moment to which I’m referring.  I have breasts, healthy breasts again.  This morning I feel that in my soul and in my body for the first time.  I feel like a butterfly.

There are strange things happening in my body which I find so interesting too.  I’m growing hair!  Yes, I know, it sounds strange to be excited for this fact, but it’s true.  I am excited because even my hair dresser thinks that my hair is growing back!  I lost all of my hair with chemotherapy and when it returned, it returned as 85% grey (so lovely at age 35) and very thin!  Not that I didn’t have fine hair when it fell out, but it came in even finer upon its return.  Lately though, my hair feels and looks thicker and I believe that it’s due to the fact that I no longer sport silicone implants.  Now I”m not saying this against them, I’m just telling you what’s going on with me.

I’ve endured 3 surgeries in the past year which were required to remove the leaking silicone implants and actually make breasts from my own body tissues.  It’s been grueling to say the least and at times, I wondered to myself if all of the pain and suffering that I endured in 2012 was worth it.

Well, I’m here to tell you that YES IT WAS!  For the first time in 11 years, I am trying on bathing suits without hard implants for breasts and it’s a glorious feeling!  For the first time in years, the body temperature of my breasts isn’t 5 degrees colder than the rest of my body!  Now when I hug others, I can actually feel them and there’s not 2 hard lumps between us.  It’s wonderful, it’s exciting and it’s almost like a rebirth!

To think that modern medicine has come so far as to be able to do this makes me weep with gratitude.  Now if we could just eradicate breast cancer in it’s entirety ~ that’s my wish ~ eradicate all cancers!  I still have another surgery for this year to continue this progression, but I can tell you one thing for sure ~ DON’T GIVE UP!   And Lands End has a bunch of mastectomy friendly suits!

Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Christina Ahn!

Big hugs!

Shine On!

xo