Month: February 2016

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

On Super Bowl Sunday, for an early pre-game activity, Gerry shaved my head down to a quarter inch.  Everything I had heard about my chemo and hair loss, told me that when my hair started to come out, it would be coming out by the fist full, that there would be huge clumps on my pillow, in my hairbrush, etc. I didn’t want to be in that place.  A week later, my hair hadn’t started to fall out, Gerry and I both had a dream that I went all the way through chemo without loosing any hair. . .  Nice thought but no cigar. . .  Feb. 6 we shaved my head, Feb. 17 my hair started to hurt, for anyone that has had long hair in a pony tail all day, you know the feeling at night when you take the pony tail out and your hair hurts at the routes because it has been bent the wrong way all day.  Well, that is exactly how it felt all over my head, I though it was just from wearing my wig.  The hair pain stayed for four days, and then on Sunday Feb. 21 it happened, my hair started to come out worse then a heavily shedding dog.  Hair on my head and my eyebrows is coming out, making me look like a spotted Dalmatian.  It is turning into wig, scarf, cap time for sure :-).

My second Chemo is complete.  My first chemo was 8 hours, second 5 hours, going forward my chemo should only be 4.5 hours for the next four chemo sessions and then finishing out the year with 2 hour sessions, much more manageable.

I am not nearly as apprehensive about the next few weeks post chemo like I was last time.  I have a much better idea of what to expect, what I need to take when and how long it will all last.  What to take for bone pain, what to take for nausea, when to take them, etc.  And most of all, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  A huge thank you to friends and family for all of your support and a giant thank you to Lorinda and Glenace for getting my girl cave going!!! I have already used it several times, note the pictures below, I cut a XXL t-shirt down into a dress for the baconfest, couldn’t have done it without you!!!

Last week I had another fill in my expanders.  I only have one fill left and then we will need to wait until after the long chemos to put in the permanent implants, hopefully all will go well, and they will be in this summer before our wedding. 🙂  Yep, we decided to make it official and get married late summer, we are looking forward to the happy day.

Baconfest was a success, I made it through in flying colors, it was two days before my chemo so I was feeling very well.

IMG_20160222_075035795

As we go through life, we never know what is around the next corner, the only thing we do know is that God will always be there with us and will always give us what we need to make it through the challenges life offer us.  Keep God in your heart, keep your family and friends close and let people know when you need help, it’s o.k. to now always be the strong one.

Thank you all for your continued support, I believe that God has brought us all together so that we can help each other on our journeys through life.  Special prayers out to my friend Sally, she is having a really tough time right now as God is helping her son and nephew during their healing process.

Until next time, may God Bless all of you,

xoxoxo

Linda

 

Advertisements

call me ‘chemo brain’

Until a few days ago, I felt as though time was folding over itself, some type of a weird time warp continuum.  It all started the day after chemo.  It had only been 12 hours since I had finished my first chemo, yet it seemed like it had been at least a month.  I call it my ‘Chemo Brain’.

The last two weeks have been filled with learning how my body responds to chemo and  what arrows I have in my quiver to combat the responses.  I know I have been very fortunate, there are many people that have it much worse than I do.  For me, it was the constant feeling of aches, fatigue, light headed, loss of appetite, abdominal pains, headache, nausea,  poor sleep, etc.  Then suddenly on Friday morning, 10 days after chemo, it was gone, the fog cleared, the pains were gone and I was back feeling like a normal human again!  With only the fatigue remaining.  I have never been one that could take naps during the day, now my naps take me… LOL  the exhaustion is crazy, never dreamt I could get so tired doing nothing… LOL

Two of the side effects that I wasn’t planning for  were puberty and dark circles under my eyes …. nobody told me that my face would break out so badly that I would look like junior high all over 😦  fortunately, it only lasted a week and seems to be getting back to normal.  However, my skin is extremely dry.  I also was not expecting to have the dark under my eyes, i researched and found that it was due to thin skin and bleeding capillaries.  Those are getting better now as well.

On Super Bown Sunday, my pregame activity was Gerry shaving my head. 🙂  I am now sporting a head of hair that is maybe 1/4″ long 🙂  I knew I didn’t want to get to the point where it would be falling out in clumps on my pillow or hairbrush.  Gerry and the girls like my wig (they said I look like a movie mom that is always wearing pearls… guess that means I need to start wearing mine) and Anna thinks I look like a ‘female ninja’ without my wig on 🙂  Can you pick which picture is with the wig 🙂  Gotta have fun where we can 🙂

1455479209641

I think the most difficult part for me post chemo was not knowing what to expect and for how long.  I think the next round of chemo will be easier as I will know what to take when, i will know how long I need to grin and bear it and most importantly, I know there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel.  And of course it goes without saying, God is always with me. 🙂

The top things I need to remember as I prepare for my next round of chemo –

  1. stay on top of nausea
  2. stay on top of nausea
  3. stay on top of nausea
  4. take clariton for the bone pain before it starts
  5. consume a protein shake before going to bed (found that it makes me feel much better in the morning)
  6. take tylenol before going to bed to help with headaches
  7. start taking steroids day before chemo
  8. take healthy snacks to chemo (last session 8 hours, next will only be 5 hours), the steroids made me so hungry last time I could have eaten two chickens!!! and then had a pound cake (or two) for dessert.  pretty sure last time I ate my weight in gardettos, cheese crackers and peanut butter crackers. . . oops

This Saturday I will be going to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest where I will be eating bacon with 10k of my closest friends. 🙂  We have been going for several years.  The question for this year… will I be up to eating bacon?  will it taste good? will I have energy to make it through the day?  you know I will try 🙂

1141229353

Thank you for sharing my journey with me.  I pray that each of you has success in all of your journeys.  Until next time, keep the faith. 🙂

Time for a fill – :-)

Today’s blog will cover the Tissue Expander and what happens during breast reconstruction using the Tissue Expander.  However, before I get started on our topic for the day, I would like to share my amazement with you regarding social media.

I graduated from high school in 1975, at that time, we didn’t have a computer in our school.  I took typing and it was a really big deal that our school had electric typewriters (I lived in a town approximately 25k).  We loved it when we got to use the mimeograph machine for personal use, and HATED typing with carbon papers.

My stepchildren initially got me into Facebook years ago to keep up with their activities (they live miles away).  Subsequently I have become a ‘hip old mom’, my daughters are 17 & 20 and we are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and they are trying to teach me SnapChat (I am a better receiver than sender… lol).  So seriously, where am I going with all of this?  I started this blog 11 days ago and I am literally amazed that I have gone international!!!  I have readers in US, Mexico, Switzerland, Philippines, Australia, Norway and Canada!!  Social media really has come a very long way in providing each of us the ability to reach out and touch someone’s life that we would otherwise not be able to reach.  I pray that each of your lives that I touch I am able to leave you with the warmth of the Lord and the ability to either help cope with your own journey or those journey’s of friends and family.

Thank you all for your amazing support, I appreciate all of your continued thoughts and prayers and please know that I am sending thoughts and prayers out to each of you daily, wherever you are in our world, whatever your journey.  We are all in God’s hands, and all in God’s plans.  May God bless you today and always.

Now, onto our blog for the day 🙂

2016-02-04_9-32-45

The Tissue Expander is placed between the ribs and the pectoral muscle, it is gradually expanded by injecting saline solution.  During the expansion phase, a pocket is being created that will ultimately be the home for the permanent implant.

So, what does this mean –

  • During the expansion
    • Breasts are hard as rock (seriously, you could hurt someone, especially if you hug a pregnant friend with sore breasts… sorry Joanne!)
    • After each fill, as the pectoral muscle is stretching it is definitely sore, but tolerable.
    • No need for a bra, those hard rocks are held in place and absolutely NOT moving, not even when running 🙂  HUGE Plus!!!!
    • Expansion will go a little farther that the ultimate desired size, this is to build a pocket that is large enough and soft enough to allow the implant to feel more real.
    • Question I have to ask the Dr.  If I get to working out again post chemo and am really working on the pecs, could I create a negative impact on my implant?
  • Post expansion
    • Surgery to remove the expanders and insert the implants.
    • Because the implant is under the pec muscle, the implant will be held securely in place, consider my pec muscle as my support bra, pretty cool 🙂
    • Periodic follow ups.
    • Tattoo nipple on left breast, right breast was able to preserve nipple.  (never say never, haha, always said I would NEVER have a tattoo… who knew… God did of course 🙂 , another lesson in humility)

The Fill

  • The Tissue Expander has a special port on it for the Dr to inject the saline, similar concept to the chemo port.  The nurse finds the port using a special apparatus that has a magnet hanging from a pendulum and marks the spot.

16995149351015028987

  • The Dr. comes in with the syringes and injects saline into the expanders.

763985080

  • Syringe is removed, small bandage applied and you are on your way until your next fill.
  • I only have two or three fills left to go and will be filling every two weeks, we are taking it slow since I won’t be able to have my expanders removed and implants put in place until at least June (based on when the first 6 cycles of chemo wrap up).

A huge thank you to all for your continued support and encouragement.  I know that God has brought each of you into my life and pray that you have strength in all of your journeys.  God Bless all of you, until next time 🙂

 

Words from a first time Chemo recipient

Words from a first time Chemo recipient

I walked into the whole cancer world very ignorant….  I thought cancer was cancer and chemo was chemo.  Seriously, I could have never been more wrong…  that is like saying that a car is a car and we definitely know that isn’t true, no one on this earth would compare a Bentley to a Prius – no offense intended.

Well, just as there are many different models, manufactures and options on cars, there are just as many different types of cancers and subsequent treatments.

Like I told you in an earlier post, my cancer is HER2 positive, because of the aggressive nature, i will be taking chemo for a year, however, after the first 6 cycles i only need to take the drug that is specifically targetted at HER2.  Good news, Immune system won’t be compromised !!!!  Yeah!!!  Hair will start to grow back, Yippee!!!

Let’s talk about hair… I learned today that typically hair will grow back opposite of what it was, i.e. straight goes curly, curly goes straight! That is great news for me, huge timesaver in the hair straightening department and I also learned that it could come in dark… 🙂 no gray 🙂 i am totally good with that, now the bad news (again, ugh) everything typically goes back to the way it was originally in about a year after chemo 😦  Notice typically all over this paragraph, that is because there aren’t really any knowns.

My first experience with Chemo –

I was blessed that Alaina was home from school over the weekend and didn’t have any classes back at IA State until 1:00, she was able to take me to my first chemo, she even went down to the starbucks kiosk for me and brought back not only coffee, but treats 🙂 especially liked the hummus and pretzels.  Gerry was able to stop by between cases and spend the end of the day with me and Deb (who was intrumental in getting Gerry and I together in 2014), stopped by and brought some great reading materials.  Thanks to all of you for helping me through my first chemo 🙂

  • Arrived at 8:30 for blood work
    • Prior to surgery I had been told that regardless of how the surgery came out, I would need to have chemo for a year because of the HER2 positive.  I elected to have a chemo port put in during my mastectomy.  The Chemo port is on my right chest.  The dark over the incision is still the skin glue, it will look better when the glue is off.

22295

    • When I was called in for blood work I was a little nervous, this would be the first time using my port…
    • First question, do you have the card that came with your port – me – deer in the headlights
    • Second question, do you know if you are saline or heparin flush – me – deer in the headlights
    • I made a quick call to the surgeon’s office and found out that it is saline flush, whew, who knew???
    • The nurse has a special needle that goes into the port –
      • Deep Breath
      • Punch – and yes, punch is the right word, as the needle punches into the port, it has a metal back, so you don’t need to worry about it punching through the port… lol

IMG_20160201_171237689_HDR

  • A syringe of saline is injected into the port
  • Two vials of blood are then pulled from the port
    • First is thrown away, as it will have too much saline
    • Second is used to evaluate the blood prior to chemo
  • 9:00 – visit dr.
    • vitals
    • review blood results
    • Q&A
  • 9:30 – chemo starts
    • Since I was going to be receiving chemo all day I elected to be in a private room (as you can see it became my office) vs. one of the chairs in the main roomIMG_20160201_164716547
  • The first time you receive chemo (or at least my first time), they have slow drips and observation periods, my next chemo sessions will be cut by 3 hours 🙂
  • 5:15 – chemo ends

So, what were the main ingrediants to my chemo and their possible side effects –

  • We started with Steroids and Benydril to help my body adjust to the Chemo and then sequentially went through each of the following
  • Perjeta
    • Common Side Effects
      • Hair Loss
      • Diarrhea
      • Decreased white blood cells
      • Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
      • Rash
      • Fatigue
      • Nausea
      • Decreased appetite
  • Herceptin
    • Common Side Effects
      • Fevers/Chills
      • Pain at site of disease
      • Nausea
      • Shortness of breath
      • Headache
      • Dizziness
  • Taxotere
    • Common Side Effects
      • Decreased red and white blood cells
      • Hair Loss
  • Carboplatin
    • Common Side Effects
      • Decreased white blood cell and platelet counts
      • Hair Loss
      • Fatigue
      • Nausea and Vomiting

22 – 24 hours after chemotherapy

  • Neulasta – this is a shot to promote white blood cell development
    • Common Side Effects
      • Bone Pain
      • Nausea
      • Fatigue
      • Weakness
      • Fever

I had several medical staff and fellow cancer pals tell me that no matter what, stay on top of the anti-nausea medication.  I have found that to be very true, a couple times I have run over on time and almost lost my cookies.  It is easy to forget, when you are feeling fine, it makes you think maybe you don’t need to take it after all… WRONG!!! listen to those who have already tread that trail…  they are speaking from experience.  I am now setting the alarm on my phone to remind me when it is time to take the next tablet, better safe than sorry.

Will be signing off for now, thank you all for your support, I know that God has brought you into my life and I will always be eternally grateful for each of you.  May God’s Love go with each of you throughout your days and stand by you through all your journeys.

Til next time!