I have hair on the brain constantly. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I am doing everything I can think of to regrow them. Every time I take a walk, drink a green juice, or make a healthy food decision, regrowth is on my mind. So I was getting a bit worried a week and a half ago knowing I was going to take another pic documenting my regrowth. It didn't look like much happened until two days ago when all of my family members at separate times mentioned my hair has grown a lot. Yay! .magic to my ears! I guess it was taking it's time. So here is my monthly pic... look how dark!
More good news! as of tomorrow I will have completed four weeks of radiation therapy. That means only 2.5 weeks left and will be treatment free! I have been very pleased with the lack of side effects from this therapy. I had heard that it makes you tired, but thankfully, I have not experienced that. Again, my doc told me the more active I am, the better and less fatigued I will be. Therefore, I have been diligent with my walks with my dog, minus the rain storm we had here last week. Not to say it won't hit me like a ton of bricks soon, but hopeful my actions are helping.
Now for so not so great news... I have been so worried about my breast getting burned, I've been slathering it with shea butter constantly. Luckily shea butter is doing the trick and no burn or red yet. BUT my allergies have kicked me in the face, literally! I winterized 30 roses then mowed our lawn last week. After that, this is what happened to my face. I swear people might have thought I got in a fight. I asked my radiation oncologist if this was a side effect and he said no. I also asked a nurse practitioner/friend/cancer survivor and she said that chemo can have effects on your system in all kids of ways 6-12 months after your treatment. That is the only thing I can think of. So... if you have seen me around wearing my glasses a lot, you now know why. I can't put any makeup on this skin without it burning. I am calling an allergist tomorrow.
OK, I am going to try to be brave and show you my hair regrowth without feeling like a total martian. The first pic below is right after my last round of chemo. I ended up losing all of the rest of those fuzzies by mid-December. I also included a closeup of my eye with no eyelashes or eyebrows. The last photo is of my head as of Feb. 1, 2017 (this is almost exactly 2 months after my last round of chemo). I've been rubbing my head every morning with a potion made of Castor Oil, Olive Oil and Rosemary Essential Oil. Every night I can see my hair has grown a teeny tiny bit. It's pretty exciting! It's also soooooo soft. It is coming in quite a bit darker than before, but I was told to expect that. Hubby is super jealous now. I'm going to catch up to him then pass him soon!
So, I was supposed to start radiation on Feb 13th, but the doctor ended up calling me a little over a week ago and said I am clear to start, so I started last week!
I had envisioned visible laser guns pointed at my breast like a firing squad. I was happy that was not the case. The first treatment was a little scary, but now that I have had a week's worth, it is no big deal. I go in, take off my top, put on a robe, walk into the treatment room where I am greeted by two technicians. I lay down on a bed, drop my top, then put my arms above my head in a specific mold made just for me. The longest part of the treatment is them inching me over this way and that until my tattoos are all aligned. They walk out of the room and this enormous round machine circles around me then radiates me for a couple of seconds on one side, then moves to the other side and does the same. Now that I have done it for a couple of days, I am in and out of there within 15 minutes! The weirdest part of it all is that each time I go there seems to be different technicians even though I go at the same time every day. I feel weird walking into the room, meeting my male technicians, then taking off my top to expose my breasts for them! eek!
The doctor has told me, the more active I am, the less fatigued I will be. I have vowed to myself to make recovery my priority this year. It's so easy to put other things first which leaves you with no time for yourself. So this year, I am going to be selfish and give myself that hour a day for my walk.
I went in for my radiation mapping the other day... it started out with a consultation then led to me taking off my top and laying down in a freezing room baring all on a table. I'm happy to report all of my male nurses and doctor said my lumpectomy looked great. So you're saying you like what you see, huh? With my arms above my head laying on a table, I felt like I was at a playboy bunny photoshoot for a nano-second. I've never had a male doctor as an adult and now I feel like I drop my top for every doc I see. The mapping went well until the nurse informed me he was going to give me three tattoos then I would be done. Uh, what? I immediately thought of a thorned rose or skull and cross bones. I wasn't prepared to get a tattoo? I soon found out he was going tattoo a small dot in the middle of my chest and under both armpits. This is supposed to help with mapping to make sure they always hit me in the correct spot. If not, they run the risk of radiating a vital organ. eek! I start radiation Feb. 13th.
I also went to my first appointment with the occupational therapist. After a lumpectomy you have to go see a therapist. Since my surgeon had to take a large cluster of lymph nodes (15 to be exact) to test for cancer, I have now been put in a higher-risk (18%) category for Lymphedema. Lymphedema is a form of swelling that affects the arm or trunk on the same side as your breast cancer. I have been instructed to do specific stretches on my right side and will also need to wear a compression sleeve and glove whenever I fly. Fingers crossed with my active lifestyle and luck, I won't get this chronic issue. I have to measure my arms each month to make sure there isn't any swelling.
BUT, on a more positive note, I am feeling great and back to myself! My ban on walking the dog has been lifted since it has been 3 weeks since my surgery. I have been going for 2.5 mile walks and feeling great. Also my hair is growing like a weed! It's crazy, every night when I inspect my head, you can actually see that it has grown that day. My hair is as soft as baby hair. I have a hard time keeping my hands off it of it ;) I have been rubbing castor oil on it every morning to stimulate the hair follicles. So ultimately it took 6 weeks after my last chemo treatment to pop through. I'm hoping by June I will be able to wear a cute pixie cut.
My final pathology report just came back and I am cancer free! I now consider myself a breast cancer survivor. Words cannot describe my feeling of joy and thankfulness for all of the prayers, help and encouragement through my journey. THANK YOU!!!
Just a quick note on hair growth. I have been looking in my 15x make-up mirror for any glimmer of hair growth. I am happy to report I can see eyebrows, eyelashes and hair on my head just starting to grow! yippie! What a relief!
I went in for my lumpectomy surgery Thursday and I am happy to report was a great success! I can't 100% say I am cancer free yet, I still have to wait for my pathology report to come back in a week but all things are pointing to a great report. Here is the process I went through...
First up, I had to get my needle placement. What that means is I had to get my boob squished in a mammogram machine that had a little window. Then a very handsome radiologist came in the room and had to thread a needle to my previous tumor site. He could tell where that was because I had a small clip placed in my first biopsy after diagnosis. So I sat there topless in front of this man while he threaded the needle and then a wire through my breast. I was literally dripping with sweat down my chest and back. Ugh!
Next up, I became radioactive! yes, they had to inject my breast with a radioactive dye then take pictures to find out where my sentinel (not sure if I spelled that correctly) node was.
Then I was wheeled to pre-op where I got an IV and a pain blocker in my back. I fell asleep and woke up in post-op with the procedure completely finished! I love that part. Didn't feel a thing and don't remember nothin. John told me the great news, the cancer had not spread into my lymph nodes! Thank goodness.
I was so incredibly sleepy from all of the drugs. The surgery was about two hours then post op was another couple of hours. I did vomit on the way home and slept for the rest of the day and night that first night. Woke up on Friday feeling great! It's Saturday and I didn't even have to take pain killers last night, although I do have to take some today. Funny, my port removal is what hurts the most. I am all bandaged up for the time being. I can't shower for three days. Whew! lucky I showered the morning of surgery. I can take of the bandages on monday afternoon. No lifting anything over 10 lbs. and have to take it easy for a couple of weeks. I'm not allowed to walk the dog in case he pulls and rips my stitches. The surgeon said that will be my biggest challenge: feeling good but not overdoing it.
John and the kids are throwing a small party for me tonight. Kids bought balloons and confetti (I didn't have the heart to tell Ella I will kill her if she throws that in my house), flowers and pizzas on the grill. Life is good and I am blessed to have such a wonderful family. Mom arrives tomorrow!
Here I am with my wig, fake eyelashes and painted eyebrows...
Just a quick note about recovery thus far. Good news! I am feeling really good, gaining my strength. I have been taking Oscar for three mile walks and feeling healthy. Bad news: I did end up losing all of my eyelashes and eyebrows. Whah! I found myself in Sephora buying fake eyelashes and special eyebrow brushes so I don't look like a martian. The fake eyelashes are, at the least, comical. I picked up the kids from school yesterday and realized one of them was half glued and half fluttering around. I'm sure I looked like a hot mess!
I am preparing for my surgery next week. "Surgery?" you say... yes. I have to have surgery even though my tumor is gone. Here is how the process will go... I have a couple of things going on here. First off, in my surgery, my surgeon will scrape the margins of where my tumor was located. She will also remove the small clip that was placed there in the beginning to show where the tumor was. While in there, she will inject me with a special dye which will immediately go into my lymph nodes. She will remove the first three or four nodes it goes into first and test onsite to make sure the cancer has not spread. If it hasn't, which all signs point to it has not spread, she will close me up and I will have a small incision scar under my right armpit. Next, she will remove my port. Yay! The port doesn't hurt or anything like that, it just really signifies that chemo truly is over. Lastly, she will take some bone marrow samples from my hip. What? you ask. Well, I have turned into a clinical trial junkie. They have asked me to be a part of the "Surmount" clinical trial which is Surveillance Markers of Utility for Recurrence after (Neo)adjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer. You can read more here if you choose here: https://www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/cancer-research/translating-research-to-practice/breast-cancer-tce/surmount-study. Will this give me any specific information for me to use? Probably not, but I want to be a part of research in hopes that if my Ella gets this as an adult, there will be more, less invasive options for her treatment. Down time for all of this is 4-6 weeks. After that I can start radiation.
Now for radiation info: I found out I will have 33-35 treatments of radiation starting 4-6 weeks after surgery. I will go in every day Monday thru Friday consecutively until treatment is finished. This means no big travel until April. Ugh! At first, my radiation oncologist had dangled a carrot in front of me with an "expedited radiation treatment" of only 30 days. I was super excited until he called me back an hour after we met to let me know I was not a candidate. When we mentioned this to my surgeon she told us there is not enough research (they like 30 years worth) to recommend this treatment. Apparently some women in Canada who had done the expedited treatment had problems that their boobs practically turning to stone. YIKES! No thanks doc, I'll stick to the tradiational 6.5 weeks. Also found out with radiation, the radiated boob becomes more firm. This will mean at some point when gravity sets in on my chest, one will be perky while the other starts to head south. Thank goodness for bras!
I also confirmed another issue. I was told by other suirvivors that your boob shrinks from radiation. I was assured by my radiation oncologist this is untrue. Since my tumor is gone and there will be just a small handful of cells scraped from in there, I shouldn't expect to have any significant shrinkage. Yay!
Lastly, let's get back to hair and not having any. I am beginning my fifth week since I have had chemo. I am frantic to start seeing peach fuzz, but nothing yet. I have been slathering my head with castor oil in the hopes of little hair folicles popping out of my bald noggin. The wait continues... sigh.
I did it! I'm finally done with my chemo. I am SO thankful to be finished with this portion of my treatment. I was blessed to have my husband, my mom and my youngest brother here when I finished.
After the last treatment I rang that bell as long and loud as I could so everyone could here. It was a very emotional moment for me and my family so I immediately broke down as soon as I was done. ugh!
So nothing new, I didn't feel too hot for a week or so. I took the nausea meds this time around and they helped a bit. I am finally out of my fog and starting to feel better. I can tell because I am starting to crave fresh food. While on chemo I craved comfort food and salads sounded horrible to me. Now I am on my green juice and salads again at day 13 after chemo. I guess that is a good sign, right?
I was also fortunate to have my twin come out the weekend after chemo to help me out with the kids. With his and mom's help, John was able to do one more important business trip.
Between all of the helpers who have come as well as the lovely ladies of the elemnetary school foundation's 12 days of Christmas crafts, these kids may not even remember these last five challenging months.
Next steps: one more MRI, pre-op appt for surgery in January, radiation consult then I have to get my port cleared out once in the meantime. Otherwise I have the entire month of December off! What a wonderful Christmas blessing.
I also have the OK from my oncologist to eat sushi starting next week. I have to still get approval from my surgeon before I can drink wine, but I will find that out next week.
So I'm not going to lie, this one has hit me harder than the rest so far. My stomach is a lot more sensitive, and I am a lot more tired, and I feel like my brain function literally is on low. I find myself asking the same questions over and over again. It has become hard for me to work. As a creative, I need that kind of brain muscle. Thank goodness for help! and I mean that in the most sincere way. One of my best friends from Florida dropped everything to come help take care of me and the family while John went on a business trip. Laura has been my angel for the last two weeks. She has driven the kids to school, taken them to lessons, fed them, played with them, bathed them all while I have sat on the sofa. She has made incredible meals almost every night, then froze some of them for later. She is my angel.
Speaking of angels, I can't say thank you enough to everyone who has encouraged me during this whole shebang. A friend from school told me the other day she was so impressed with me taking my kids to school almost every day and looking fabulous doing it. How sweet. I figure, even if I don't feel fabulous, slapping on my kick-A wig and wearing sparkle eye shadow does something for the soul. So many friends have sent messages on my blog or told me in person, or brought dinner to my home, or flowers to my door. I can't say in words how thankful I am for all of you. When I am feeling down, I remember what you say and it truly helps me.
Now, to another positive... I have one single chemo infusion left! Nov. 30th is my magical day. There is a bell outside the chemo infusion lab. I've already told everyone I am going to ring it louder than anyone ever has. I am counting down the days. Honestly, I am worried about my last chemo. I am worried how tired I will be and how I will feel, but knowing it is my last one makes me feel like I am so close to the finish line.
I wish I was! But, not quite yet. I do have the entire month of December to recover. What a blessing! I have my outpatient surgery on Jan. 12th to remove any scar tissue and scrape the margins of where my tumor once was. After that, I wait another month then start radiation. Bummer, I just found out I have t o go for radiation monday through friday for 7.5 weeks! This grounds me until mid April now.
Let's talk hair now... so I have lost some of my eyebrows and my eyelashes. Luckily there are a few left for me to put makeup on, but they are dwindling. I have been trying to figure out how much hair I will have when this whole ordeal is over. I think I'll hopefully be to 3 inches by June of next year. Unless I can come up with some natural potion to make it grow faster. Believe me, i will be researching that!
Feeling a bit better each day after infusion. I can do this.
Hi! I'm Amy. I was diagnosed at 44 with