"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hair is hanging on...still

I am still obsessing about my hair.  I can't help it!  So I am now 26 days after my first chemo treatment and 5 days after my second chemo treatment and still have hair!  I won't say it has been without obsessing and effort, but there is hair!  I believe the Penguin Cold Caps are going to work for me!

The hair has still been shedding a little but I do believe it is slowing down since my worst day which was Saturday.  Today I combed lightly using a wide tooth comb and being very gentle.  I had hair come out - more than normal which has me stressed, but when I look in the mirror there is still a full head of hair.  That is what I WILL focus on. 

Right now I have been focusing on the hair that falls out...there is still way more hair on the head than there is in my comb or on the floor.  For now people see me like everyone else - with hair.  No one has noticed my hair being any different...other than not styled my normal way, but that's nothing to me. 

Tonight I covered up my roots with colormark to make me feel better.  It looks better that way....I feel a little more like me.  I wore a cute hat today to cover up the flat/unstyled hair I am sporting and I looked cute in the hate.  One of the hardest things is finding a new normal in all of this.  For me the new normal will be a little less hair with no style, but it IS hair which is my goal.  I am going to try to remember that each day I get up as those around me also going through chemo don't have hair.  A BAD hair day is a GOOD hair day to someone going through chemo......

On a bright note...still no chemo side effects!  If I make it through tomorrow with no bone pain I am home free!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ugh....the hair!

So I finally got up the nerve to wash my hair today.  I have followed the directions and have not washed since last Saturday.  Since some of the shedding started on Wednesday when I had my second chemo, I was petrified to see what would happen when I washed my hair (since it has still been shedding since Wednesday).

I started to gently comb my hair from the bottom and hold the top so I would not pull on it.  I figured that if I combed it a little before it would be less tangled during washing.  The combing went fine and not much hair came out - maybe a little more than normal but not bad.  Then I began to wet my hair with the cool water and started seeing hairs drop.  I continued along slowly and carefully bent over the very large and oh so very white tub (making every hair stand out like a sore thumb) and watched each hair fall....many hairs fall.  I washed and conditioned a little and rinsed...more hair.  It has been horrible all morning.  I just looked in the mirror and tears began to fall. 

I know the "shedding" is normal with doing the cold caps, but I kept having hope maybe it would not happen at all since it has been over 3 weeks since my first chemo and there had been no hair loss.  Ugh.  I just sat there with wet hair....letting it hang and dry.  I was too afraid to touch it.  It doesn't look any different to me (other than not dried and styled like I would).  I did not notice any bald spots or clumps coming out which is good news, but I can't get the image of all that hair coming out today in the tub!  This is the first time I really feel a strong panicked feeling about my hair since starting this process.  I have been positive and have said over and over again that it will work and I will keep my hair.  I am starting to just get a bit nervous now.

Others that have done the cold caps have experienced the same exact shedding and worries and still went through chemo and finished with hair.  I have to try to hold on to that and their words of wisdom and experience that this will be OK.  I guess I have just tried to be so positive and have not let a negative thought enter my mind in the past few weeks since starting chemo it is just hitting me today.  I hate breast cancer. 

I have to find a way to put this into some kind of perspective.  Normally I would wash my hair daily.   I wonder how much hair I would lose on a daily basis doing that?  I have not washed my hair in an entire week (following the protocol for Cold Caps) and had some shedding in the past few days.  I wonder if I shed more because it was all at once (a week's worth of shed without washing)?  Let's face it, I have been really gentle with my hair and have barely even combed it much in the past week.  That plus the chemo shed may make this normal for cold caps.  I sure hope so.   I just hope the shedding period stops soon.  I don't know what will happen if this continues for a few more days.  That will put me over the edge for sure!

For now it looks normal (other than not styled my normal way) and does not look thin.  I will try to remember that today.  I will tell myself that over and over again today. 

As far as post chemo this week, I am doing better than I thought.  I had chemo on Wednesday and felt fine on Thursday and Friday.  I exercised well both days too which felt good.  Yesterday in the afternoon I started feeling a little foggy in the head like last time and started with some body aches.  I have been taking Aleve and Claritin this time around to help with side effects and I do feel like the side effects are a bit less than last time which is good news.  I do have a little soreness in my neck, base of skull, ribs and jaw, but it is minimal and definitely less than last time.  I slept OK last night - not great but better than some nights.  I have been really hungry the past two days.  All I want is carbs.....lots of them too!  I have been trying to focus on drinking a lot of water to flush the chemo out of my body.  I just hope the bone pain does not hit again this time around.  We will see.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I am shedding....a little!

I know that by doing the Penguin Cold Caps it can help preserve your hair during chemo, but there is still some hair loss that can occur.  I have been waiting for the time in which my hair would start to shed a little.  I was so hopeful there would be no shedding after my first round of chemo.  I made it to the second round of chemo with no shedding, but yesterday it happened a little.

I had the first chemo on 3/2 and literally had no shedding until yesterday (3/23).  I am very gentle with my hair and barely comb it with the wide tooth comb each day to avoid any additional stress on my hair.  Up until yesterday I would only get a few hairs out of the comb (maybe 4-6).  Yesterday I combed one side and got at least 10 hairs.  I combed the other side and the same thing.  I combed the back - same thing.  Yikes!  Later in the day I still noticed more hair coming out in strands. 

I was told there would be days of shedding but everyone's reaction is different.  I thought maybe I was going to get by without it but......Oh well.  As long as it stops soon I will be OK.  I know that the hair down south shed for about 5 days at day 13 after chemo and then stopped shedding.  There is still some hair left (maybe 25%) so I am sure it will go soon now that I had chemo number two.  No one told me when I got diagnosed that I would get a free Brazilian!  I am not sure if that is a bonus or not....I think my husband may think so though.  (Like I really feel sexy right now....ha!).  I hope the shedding up top doesn't last for many days......oh God please let it stop!

At night to protect my hair I sleep in two loose braids and put my hair in a satin sleep cap and sleep on a satin pillow case just to avoid any pulling on my hair since it is longer.  Right now I am still in my braids...afraid to take them out and see the hair again!  Oh, it's going to be a long day and potentially a bad hair day at that since I have not been able to wash my hair since last Saturday!  (I have a hat for today and can wash tomorrow...but I am scared to wash now!).

I guess I have officially changed my obsession for my boobs over to a new obsession - hair!  At least with the boobs no one can really see anything - they are under my clothes.  With the hair it's just right out there for everyone to see - including me all day!  Yikes!  For now I am going to continue to have hope that my hair will stay with me.  It just hast to, right?????

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Half way done with chemo with hair too!

Today was day two of my four chemo sessions on taxotere and cytoxan.  Now that I am through that I am officially half way through my chemo journey.  I am so glad. 

The day started out rough as the steroids kept me up until 2:00am last night and I was up at 6:30am this morning to get my son ready for school as usual.  By the time I got him out the door I had to quickly pack food for the day and get everything together, take a shower and take all my meds.  We were out the door for the cancer center by 8:20am this morning with all of my food and hair saving gear. 

We met with my oncologist after my blood work.  Blood work is all in a good range so we could do chemo.  After reviewing a few things with her it was time to get started.  I had to get that first Penguin Cold Cap on......lord the first one is the worst.  It is like a brain freeze from drinking a frozen margarita way too fast. The good news is that like a brain freeze it doesn't last long.  The more I did the caps it was not that bad.  The hard part is freezing the fingers, toes and keeping ice in my mouth while wearing the cold caps during the taxotere drug.  That drug can cause neuropathy in fingers and toes and soars in the mouth.   The ice helps  prevent that.  Of all of these, icing my toes is the WORST! Ugh!  Once I was done with that, the caps didn't bother me really. 

It was a long day because of the caps.  You wear them 50 minutes before chemo, during chemo (my chemo is 2 hours) and then an additional 4 hours after chemo.  I am glad that long day is done!  The good news is I  am half way through chemo and I still have a full head of hair.  I hope it stays that way.  The cold caps are worth it!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chemo round two tomorrow

Tomorrow I have my second chemo treatment of four.  That means when I am done I will be half way through this crap.  That's the good news.  Now I am just trying to psych myself up for the long, exhausting chemo day. 

My day will start at 9am with my weekly blood draw and an appointment with the oncologist.  Then we are off to chemo.  Since I am doing the cold caps to keep the hair, I will be taking my ativan right before we leave for the hospital in the morning to make the caps more tolerable.  So then we do the cold caps for 50 minutes before they start my chemo.  My pre-meds will be done during this time. 

My first chemo is Taxotere - which can be bad for the body.  Fifteen minutes before it starts, I start icing my fingers and toes while putting ice in my mouth all while I have the frozen caps on my head.  Thank God for electric blankets!!!  The ice on fingers and toes helps prevent neuropathy (numbness) and loss of finger/toe nails.  The ice in the mouth helps prevent mouth sores.  I have to do this for fifteen minutes before and after the taxotere drip, plus the one hour during the drip.  It is one long hour and a half.  The worst thing last time was my poor toes!  I hate icing my toes!  Ugh!  Thank God for ativan! 

The caps were not so bad last time...just long!  A total of seven hours of caps - changing them every 30 minutes.  It was a long day, but we were busy most of the day with the cap change routine.  There was not much time to relax....once we got settled again, it was almost time for another cap change.  My husband was so good with the caps...I am lucky he's an engineer (he's so detail oriented!!!) and does everything exactly as it should be done. 

Tomorrow my sister will be joining us for help and moral support.  I am so glad she is coming with me.  I rarely get so spend time with her without kids around so it will be nice.  She is also a chemo infusion nurse so she can see the caps work first hand and be a part of it.  It is such a nice treat to spend a day with my sister....we never do that!  Too bad it's not at the spa or something, but I will enjoy it anyway. 

I have so much to do today to get ready for chemo and prepare for the days after where I may not feel well.  Time to grocery shop and cook a few things to hold over the family for the next few days.  I keep saying..."I will be half way done tomorrow"  over and over again.......

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hair is hanging on

I don't know if I even dare to put in writing that the hair is hanging on..perhaps I have jinxed myself.  I certainly hope not.  I had my first chemo treatment on March 2nd and am using the Penguin Cold Caps to save my hair.  I have read that with my chemo regimen that the hair loss usually starts anytime about 14 days after the first chemo treatment.  It is now 19 days after my first chemo and I am watching like a hawk to see if there are any changes in my hair.  So far, not much change.  I hope it stays that way!  I am petrified it won't. 

Around day 13 after chemo I started noticing the hair "down south" shedding.  I noticed continued shedding for several days and now about 75% of it is gone.  Once I noticed that happening I started freaking out about the hair on my head wondering when it was going to start!  I even had nightmares about my hair falling out!  Ugh!  As if getting breast cancer isn't bad enough, now this!  I am so tired of obsessing over my boobs under construction and now I have to worry about my hair too.  It's exhausting quite honestly.

I only wash my hair twice a week now (per the hair treatment protocol - not by choice) and I have to wash in cool water.  Since I won't take a cool shower I wash my hair over my large garden tub using a small hand held sprayer (bought at Walmart for $8).  The thing about my tub is that it is white...I have dark brown hair.  Now my new hobby is counting the hairs that fall out while washing, rinsing, conditioning as they go down the drain.  What a great new hobby.  Talk about being crazy.....

I was really nervous to wash my hair on Saturday as that should be during the prime time for shedding after my first chemo but I was pleasantly surprised.  I lost about 20 hairs during the washing, rinsing and conditioning part and maybe another 10 hairs when I combed my hair out (I only use a wide tooth comb to avoid pulling on hair).  Since a normal person loses about 100 hairs a day, this was not bad at all.  I just wish I could be assured it would stay like this. 

I do know that I have lost some hair though besides "down south".  Normally I have a lot of small, short, what I call "baby hairs" around my hairline on my forehead.  I never had a clean/clear hairline as I always had lots of these baby hairs.  Now they appear to be gone and I have a very clear hairline.  This would not be noticeable to anyone else, but I noticed it.  Since this part of my hair was not protected by the cold caps, it makes sense it would shed.  The fact that nothing else has shed yet is a good sign I hope. 

It's hard to believe it has been almost 3 weeks since my first chemo.  It is already time for my next round in two days.  I have less anxiety about the chemo but am just dreading the body aches and bone pain to follow in the days after.  I keep thinking about how crappy I will feel next weekend.  I guess the only thing I can stay focused on is that I will be half way done with chemo this week.  Only two more to go after that.  I just want it over with!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Is sugar killing me too??

As I read more and more about breast cancers and ways to prevent recurrence, I have to address sugar.  Sugar is bad for breast cancer as it just fuels the tumors.  How is a girl to survive without any sweets?  Geez...no wine, no sweets, no beef, what next?  I guess I have to really understand what the limitations are and find ways to enjoy the sweets that are safer for me in moderation.  What does that look like?  What can I have?  Oh how I will miss anything sweet and chocolate!  I love chocolate cake and brownies.....sigh.

From what I have read, sugar and white flour have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a big increase in the blood glucose levels.  Insulin and insulin growth factor are secreted and then can enter the body's cells.  The insulin and IGF actually provide fuel for the cells, stimulate cell growth and inflammation which actually can act as a fertilizer for tumors.  In some studies on mice, the effects of chemotherapy were compromised in mice that had high levels of insulin after being stimulated by sugar.

So how do I change my diet to avoid increases in insulin and IGF?  First of all I started with flour.  I have made the change to avoid all bleached flour (white flour) and refined sugars in my diet.  I will need to strictly restrict my desserts to special occasions and convert to natural sugar substitutes that have a lower glycemic index.  So what does all of this mean and how do I do it?

Multi grain bread and and whole wheat flour is a good start.  Eating foods rich in these items will slow down the conversion into sugar in the body.  I have replaced white rice with brown, whole grain rice and basmati rice because they have a lower glycemic index.  For pasta (which typically contains bleached flour), I have switched to whole wheat pasta which really doesn't taste much different with sauce on it at all.  I have avoided potatoes which also have a high glycemic index too.  For breakfast cereals, avoid regular cereals that contain sugar and bleached flour and choose whole grain cereals high in fiber and low in sugar.  Jellies and jams are also high in sugar and cause insulin to spike so I have eliminated them from my diet.  Juices and soda are full of sugar so they are not in my diet either, but I never really indulged in these things before.  I did however indulge in diet soda which I have also removed from my diet and only drink occasionally when I am out.  Candy is another thing to remove from the diet.  I don't usually eat candy, only on occasion so that was not that hard for me.  I guess I don't keep it in the house so it is not usually an issue, but if you put a bowl in front of me, that may be another story.  For now, I will try to keep it out of the house!

The other thing is you have to read the labels on all of the foods you buy.  I have found that simple items contain sugar and if you don't realize that, it can add up by the end of the day.  Check labels on yogurts, snack foods, cereal and granola bars.  There is sugar!  There isn't really a daily recommenced amount of sugar for the diet because sugar really isn't necessary, but it is recommended not to have more than 40 grams of sugar a day.  Once you read the labels and add up the sugar you get in prepared foods it is super easy to hit 40 grams per day even before dinner.  Start reading the labels and searching for low sugar options to avoid increasing the insulin levels in your body that can fuel breast cancer cells.

So what can I eat when I want sweets?  Who can live without chocolate or dessert?  What's a girl to do?  I have been reading and trying to determine how I can survive without any sweets and how do I do this when I have a family?  The things I can include in my diet in moderation are natural sweeteners including agave nectar, honey, dark chocolate less than 70%, unsweetened cocoa powder and natural fruit.  Agave nectar is made from the cactus plant and is very sweet - three times sweeter than table sugar.  It is a good alternative to sugar as the glycemic index is much lower than that of sugar.  The glycemic index of agave nectar is between 15-21 while the glycemic index of sugar is 100.  Another option with a low glycemic index is acacia honey (glycemic index of 30).  Regular honey has a glycemic index of 60 to 80.  For something to be considered a low glycemic index, it must be below 55.  Coconut sugar also has a low glycmic index of 35. 

Now I have some choices of sugar, but sugars are still high calorie food items and should only be eaten in moderation.  I guess for me I have decided to bake more as prepackaged foods will not contain these types of sugars with a low glycemic index and whole wheat flour.  You can shop for low sugar/diabetic options but often times they are made with white flour.  I have started baking my own muffins, cookies and brownies and have used organic oats, organic whole wheat flour and controlled amounts of natural sweeteners that have a low glycemic index.  I often use apple sauce or pumpkin to replace fat so the baked goods are low fat or have no fat at all.  For me the good news is that my family has accepted the new baked goods.  I have been baking oatmeal banana cinnamon muffins now for weeks and I can't keep them in the house!  My four year old eats two of my low calorie, high fiber, low sugar muffins every morning!  In fact when Daddy ate the last one the other day it caused a meltdown and I was instructed to bake more before he got home from school. 

For me, these changes have been relatively easy once I read and knew what I should and shouldn't have.  I have been taking time to find recipes and adapt them into things that are healthier which means no refined flour, no regular sugar/brown sugar and low fat.  I can live with things this way and find ways to enjoy a regular dessert for special occasions.  I have even found some dark chocolates low in sugar at Trader Joe's for when I have that occasional chocolate craving that is out of control.  I am experimenting with added cocoa powder to fat free organic yogurt too for occasional sweet snacks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let's talk organic foods

As I move through this process of breast cancer I have made numerous changes in my diet and health care products to help reduce my chances of recurrence and keep me and my family as healthy as possible.  In this journey I have explored the differences between organic foods and conventional foods to determine what is best for me and my family.  I have chosen to buy organic when possible for many reasons. 

Organic foods don't contain anything unnatural or toxic.  There are no chemicals, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial coloring, no heavy metals or no artificial flavorings.  This is the way food was intended to be...simply and natural.  The cost of buying organic can break the bank, but if you know which foods are important to buy organic you should focus there first.  Some foods have little need for pesticides and such so paying more for them to be organic may not be worth it for some people.  On average, organic vegetables cost about 20% more than regular grown vegetables.  Keeping that in mind, here is a list of the top twelve foods you should buy organic because of the pesticide levels alone:
  1. Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  2. Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  3. Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  4. Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  5. Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  6. Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  7. Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  8. Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  9. Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  10. Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  11. Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  12. Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.

This is a list of the top twelve produce items that had the least amount of pesticides found in them (most of these items have thick skin to protect them):
    • Asparagus
    • Avocados
    • Bananas
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Corn (However, almost all corn is genetically modified)
    • Kiwi
    • Mangoes
    • Onions
    • Papaya
    • Pineapples
    • Sweet Peas
I guess if the cost of organic is an issue, you could skip buying these items organic to save some money knowing they don't typically contain much pesticides. 

Another common item to buy organic for sure is coffee.  Who knew?  Personally, I don't drink coffee, never have, but my husband does.  From what I have read, coffee beans are one of the most chemically treated items grown.  I had no idea.  I am slowly working on my husband to convert him from his conventionally grown, special flavored coffee to something organic.  We will see how it goes.  Hopefully the organic coffee makers realize that if they make the fancy flavors, more people will buy it!  I have not looked for coffee yet, but will do it this week!  Gosh I hope they have some good flavors or this may be a tough sell to my husband!  I don't want a cranky husband, with breast cancer I am cranky enough for both of us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What dairy products are safe for me???

Now that I know hormones are an issue for me because of my ER/PR positive breast cancer, what do I eat?  I have been trying to make changes in my diet to help reduce my chances of cancer recurrence but no one really tells you what you should or should not eat.  It's so confusing I just end up not eating things because I am scared and don't know what to do.  I can't live like that the rest of my life!  I love food - I am Italian for God's sake!  So today I am diving into dairy and figuring out what I can and can't have so I know.  So I spent the morning googling and reading and this is what I have come up with as options. 

So from what I have read cheese (when from cows and made from whole milk) can contribute to the risk of breast cancer (although it appears low fat dairy products can help prevent breast cancer).   The milk used to make most cheeses in the US is made from pregnant cows which have higher levels of progesterone and estrogen.  The whole milk from these cows is also full of saturated fat and these cows are given recombinant bovine growth hormones so they can produce more milk, which has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.  We also don't know the sources of the feed used to feed these cows and have no idea what contaminants are in the feed that could be harmful.  All of this combined can not be good for the body!  This is why I have looked into making changes.  For me the important things will be no hormones, no antibiotics, natural fed animals and low fat products if possible. 

From what I read, it seems like low fat dairy products can be protective for breast cancer which is good.  Now the problem is how do you get low fat dairy products without all of the the hormones and other potential contaminants?  Which dairy products do I choose?  How do I know it is hormone free?  All of these questions are a great mystery and drive me crazy.  I want to know!

So let's start with organic.  What is it?  This link gives a good explanation:  http://www.pickyourown.org/organic.htm  For me personally, I have chosen to switch to organic foods when I can for me and my family.  It is expensive and hard to get exactly what you want sometimes, but I am searching my local stores and finding options.  I can get most things I need but it comes at a price!  Organic is very expensive.  The first week or two shopping it was costing over $200 per week for my family of three to eat!  That's nuts, unless you have an endless money supply, which alas I do not.  Now what.....organic is good but oh so very pricey.  There has to be another way!  I will address the cost of organic in another post as I am trying hard to find the most economical way to eat healthy (so stay tuned). 

So now that we know what organic is, what are the options for dairy?  I have searched Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Meijer and Kroger and found that they all offer some organic dairy options. Whole Foods does have several organic choices, but not really much that is low fat.  They do have low fat cottage cheese which doesn't even taste good in my opinion and is expensive (oh how I miss my Breakstone's 2% Cottage Cheese cups!!!).  So I have not found anything low fat that works for me yet so I settled for some goat cheese which is low fat.  I can get sliced cheeses and brick cheese that is organic but again for a package of shredded organic mozzarella it was $4.99 (ouch!).  I did also check Kroger but they only have New Horizons Organic cheeses - string cheese, and American Cheese (the American Cheese is fine for my son's occasional grilled cheese sandwiches but for a small package it was $3.50).  Meijer did not carry much other than their own brand Meijer Organics in the brick form although they do have organic feta cheese made from cow's milk which is nice.  For brick type cheese, Meijer had colby, cheddar and a few others, but no mozzarella (which is a bummer because we love to make homemade pizza).  Trader Joe's did offer some organic cheeses including shredded mozzarella for a more modest price of $3.99.  They also carried Tillamook which is organic too but not low fat.

I don't eat a lot of dairy these days (my stomach is not too fond of dairy so I had greatly reduced the amount of dairy I eat before getting diagnosed with breast cancer), but my problem is that it's so hard to find other low fat cheeses that I do eat that are organic (feta, goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, etc....) so now what do I do?  I actually don't eat much cheese other than these types unless I am making my occasional authentic Italian dinners.  So how do I enjoy these low fat cheeses organic or at least hormone free??? 

After doing some research online, I found out that in Europe they are not permitted to use Recombinant bovine somatatropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), so you won't find it in cheeses from Italy or anywhere in Europe.  That is good news but leaves me wondering what is wrong with the US for allowing such practices (that's an entire post of it's own on that topic!).  I have also been reading about the differences in pasteurized and raw cheeses.  It appears that there is some benefit to considering raw dairy products to avoid additional hormones and antibiotics used in cows that product pasteurized dairy products.  However, people also worry about getting sick from eating raw cheeses, so that is something to consider. 

Another thing I looked into was Amish dairy products.  I am lucky that we have a local store that carries Amish dairy and meat products from Indiana.  I went there and talked to them at length about how the dairy and meat products are produced.  So I found out that the Amish farm where they get this products has animals that are grass fed but supplemented in the winter with natural grains (grown by the Amish with no chemicals).  These animals are not given any hormones or antibiotics at all.  The same holds true for the chickens, turkeys and cows for beef.  As far as the cheeses, they make the cheese from the hormone free, all natural, antibiotic free milk and yogurt.  So this leaves me some options for dairy.  This particular product line is not "certified organic" but meets most of my requirements which are no hormones, naturally/grass fed, no antibiotics and no chemicals.  The best part about it is their prices are way lower than the certified organic foods I bought from Whole Foods!   So this week I went and bought some chicken, ground turkey, ground chicken and some Parmesan cheese to try.  I had the chicken last night.  It was very tender and had little fat at all (boneless, skinless breasts).  I have not tried the cheese yet but will this week. 

I also love goat cheese and feta cheese which are naturally lower in fat, but how do I find it without hormones, free of chemicals and from grass fed goats and sheep?  I think the best way to solve this problem is to look for imported cheeses that have labeling that says "grass fed" animals on it if possible.  If the cheeses are imported from Europe, they will not have any hormones as it's not allowed there.  So for now I will use this as an option or look for certified organic versions of feta from cows that is US made.  Ricotta cheese is usually made from sheep's milk in Italy but in the states is often made from cow's milk.  Again I will look for imported ricotta cheese to avoid the hormones.  I have also found certified organic ricotta at Whole Foods, but it was not low fat.  I will continue to search for some low fat options and even check my favorite Italian import store I frequent on the east side of town to see what they have. 

As far as eggs and milk, it's the same process for finding safe foods that are hormone free.  I also like to look for free range organic eggs as those animals are not cage raised and are raised free to roam.  They have opportunity to eat natural foods vs. just feed provided in a cage.  These are all things to consider when selecting dairy products.

So moving forward I have some options here.  I now have to spend more time in my local markets reading labels and checking prices and trying to see what's available. I think it's a good idea to ask the person that orders food for the dairy department in the local markets about what products are available in the store that meet your needs.  At my local Kroger store they said they would order whatever I wanted....that was surprising to me! 

As I indicated earlier, there are things available in the stores but some of it gets really expensive.  I am working on finding the best healthy, organic, hormone free, chemical free foods and comparing prices so stay tuned for some bargain shopping advice soon!  I will post it when I am done comparing everything. 

Here are some links that may be helpful regarding healthy dairy options:


Monday, March 14, 2011

Something to look forward to

Since getting diagnosed with breast cancer I have been so touched by the support and help I have received from my friends and family.  It has been amazing.  During this process I have had several friends approach us about taking a vacation when I am done with treatment to celebrate and enjoy time together.  When people kept asking I just couldn't think about that as I was dealing with so much.  Now that time has gone by, I can think about it.

We have four other families that have committed to join us on vacation later this summer!  I am so excited! We are planning our trip now and are making reservations for an 8 bedroom home in the Outer Banks with a pool near the beach!  I can't believe we are all going.  This is going to be so fun.

It's funny because this is the first thing that we have planned beyond the current week since surgery and since my chemo started.  From now until the beginning of May when I should finish chemo, I feel like we take everything day by day and week by week.  I feel like planning a vacation is "normal".  It feels like my old life again.

This trip will be special though.  I have so many amazing people in my life and to think that they will all be together with me and my family on vacation is incredible.  My sister and her kids will be there (my son adores his cousins!).  My best friend of 21 years will be there with her family.  My very dear, close friend that I have known for 11 years will be there with her family.  I am also blessed to have one of neighbors and her family be with us.  Though we have only met three years ago, we have become such good friends and support each other a lot as our sons are the same age.  Since getting diagnosed I can't even count all the things she has done for us.  I just can't wait to spend time with all of these amazing friends on vacation. 

I have been fortunate to travel a lot in my lifetime even to many exotic places over seas and far away.  I have been lucky to experience different cultures and see amazing, historic sites all over Europe, the Caribbean and South America.  Who would have thought I would be so excited for a domestic vacation to North Carolina?  This will be a very special trip for me as I will have such special people joining us.  It will be great!  I can't wait for summer to be here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nobody knows, somebody knows....

I went to the gym this morning and ran into a friend that I don't see much anymore.  We use to be really close and talk a few times a week but that really fell off in the last year.  So she has no idea that I have breast cancer because I never told her.  I was worried that she would notice something different....I guess because to me everything is different now. 

When I ran into her I was just walking in the locker room to get rid of my sweatshirt and jacket.  She started talking to me so I had to shed my coat and sweatshirt with her watching and talking to me.  I was nervous to take off my sweatshirt now with my new tissue expander breasts and the port in my arm, but I just kept talking and acting normal as I did everything.  We continued to talk as I got ready and we walked up to the workout floor together.  She never even blinked or looked at me funny.  So I was now in my tank top with my new boobs and my chemo port on my arm and she noticed nothing.  All of my hair is still in tact so that wasn't different either.  I felt so nervous the whole time talking to her.  It was so strange.  It was really hard when she was asking me about work seeing as I am on short term disability and not working at all right now.  I just gave a BS answer and moved on.  I hate that I felt like I was lying and keeping a secret.

After we were done talking I went to do my workout just like normal.  I then realized that I am "normal" to everyone else.  I am not a "cancer patient" to strangers or even acquaintances.  I have hoped for this ever since being diagnosed.  I keep hoping that my hair stays with the Penguin Cold Caps and I can still be "normal" in the coming months.  Today gave me hope for that. 

When I was done working out I went back to the locker room by myself and was getting my things out of the locker.  There was a woman standing next to me getting dressed.  As I reached in my locker for my sweatshirt, she looked at my arm and saw the chemo port (it's still healing).  I felt so uncomfortable.  I then looked at her in the eyes and she just looked at me..I knew she knew what it was.  I could tell by the look on her face.  I just felt so uncomfortable.  She said nothing, but the rest of the time I was in there she looked at me with a look of pity on her face. 

I guess my lesson for today is wear long sleeve workout shirts......

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Waiting for my hair to fall out.....

My first chemo was 8 days ago and I got over that hump.  Quite honestly, I was more concerned about being able to tolerate the Penguin Cold Caps (to save my hair through chemo) than the chemo itself.  That too went better than I expected and I tolerated it well.  Now I sit and wait.......and wait......

With the type of chemo I am on (taxotere and cytoxan) the hair generally starts to fall out at least two weeks after chemo and later.  So for this first week I have been doing a good job distracting myself and not thinking about my hair potentially falling out.  Now that more time is going by I am starting to think about it more and more.  I hate the waiting...it's killing me!

So next week on Wednesday it will be two weeks.  I keep checking other body hair and it is all in tact (nothing like giving a slight tug on your hair down below to check and see if it's falling out or not).  I don't know how I will get through the next week without obsessing over my hair.   It is going to be one long week!

It is hard not to obsess over the whole hair thing at this point because I can't even treat it normal.  Now I can only wash it twice a week and it needs to be in cool water - not hot water like in a normal shower.  I have to time out which days I will wash it based on when I will be going out or seeing people.  In addition I have to use all new hair products that don't contain sulfates or parabens.  These products need to be really gentle.  I have chosen some organic products.  The hair dryer is out unless you use it on cool.  Do you know how long it takes to dry long hair on the cool setting of a hair dryer?  Answer:  forever!  Not only that, but when drying it, you can't really brush it as you don't want to tug on it at all.  So with all the new, strange and undesirable hair care protocols, how do I NOT obsess about my hair???? 

I have slightly wavy hair and before all of this I used straightening gel and blow dried my hair out straight using a large round brush.  I never LOVED my hair, but it looked nice.  Now I would kill to blow dry it and style it my normal way.  Now I am settling for wavy, curlier styles and using headbands and styling options I never would use before.   I know this is a small sacrifice at this point - having undesirably styled hair is better than having no hair, right?  I keep telling myself that over and over again.

The nice thing about having hair through chemo (assuming I will) is that you don't feel like you are broadcasting "I have cancer" to the world.  We went out with some friends a few weeks ago that we only see once or twice a year and they don't know anything about my cancer.  I keep thinking that if I keep my hair, it will be just like that. No one will ever know.   There is something powerful to me about that.  I don't want pity.  I want a normal life just like everyone else.  I just want to go out and live life in a normal way without everyone feeling sorry for me or looking at me with pity.  I hope that having hair will let me do that.

The other thing about having hair during chemo is that when chemo is over you can just wash your hair and go out and move on - with hair!  I think I would rather have a few months of ugly styled hair during chemo when I feel crappy anyway and then just move on after chemo.  By the time I am done with chemo I will feel good again and at that point I will not have to wait another six months for my hair to grow back.  I can just "be" and not have the daily reminder of chemo and cancer with a bald head and wigs. 

I know so many people go through cancer and lose their hair.  I commend them.  For some reason losing my hair to me was the hardest thought to deal with.  I just felt too vulnerable to go out with a wig on and let everyone everywhere see me as a "cancer patient".  Now, I am only a cancer patient when I go to the oncology office.  When I go to the gym, my son's school, out to dinner and visit with friends, I am just a regular person.  That feels good to me.  That gives me hope that I can be a normal person again.  For now, I will continue the horribly loooooong wait and see if my hair holds on.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bad healthcare providers.....

Today I also had my first blood check post chemo.  I met with the PA at my oncology office for the first time to review my blood counts.  She told me that everything was in a normal range and we went through each item on the blood draw list and discussed it.  That was good news. 

The part that was bad was the PA. Talk about bad health care providers.....she was awful!  There are some people that should just not be in the health care setting dealing with patients where compassion and kindness should be required.  I have never been treated like that by any health care provider in my life.  It's completely wrong.  I am contemplating not going back to see her and requesting someone else. 

This was how the conversation started after she reviewed my blood work.
PA:  So how have you been feeling after chemo - any side effects?

Me:  I got a yeast infection (I was still talking - didn't get to say anything or explain and she cut me off mid sentence.......)

PA:  How do you know it was a yeast infection? (in a very annoyed voice like I thought I was a self proclaimed doctor).

Me:  I went to my gyno and she did a culture then treated it.

PA: (she was all annoyed because I went to the gynocologist...when she finally shut up I told her I already had the appointment scheduled for Monday morning for a pap and it started on Sat night so it seemed as though she could handle it).  Then she asked "what did she treat you with?"

Me:  an internal cream and external cream...I did not bring the information with me but I can call you when I get home.

PA:  no, that won't be necessary.  Anything else?

Me:  I had horrible constipation and ended up with an enema at 5am on Sat morning

PA:  We DON'T advocate enemas while on chemo!  (like anyone would should ever advocate them...did she think I wanted to do this???  If someone does an enema they are desperate...trust me!)  Don't do that again!  That is in the past now so let's talk about what you SHOULD do next time.  You should take stool softeners.  (said like she was scolding a 5 year old).

Me: I did take stool softeners, they don't work and I wound up with an enema  because I was in agony.

PA:  Don't tell me they don't work unless you take them the right way...two in the morning and two in the evening.

Me:  I did take two in the morning and night and I still needed the enema - it was 5am on Saturday, I had no choice.  I asked the doctor if I could take a laxative the day of chemo to prevent this but I was told not to.  I has also asked if I should take stool softeners that day of chemo and I was told no......I should wait because I may not have that issue.

PA:  Oh. 

Me: I really didn't think at 5am on Saturday morning I should page the doctor on call to tell him I couldn't poop.  So, I plan on taking a laxative next chemo day. 

PA:  Take a stool softener

Me:  It didn't work for me last time.  It also did not work when I took them twice a day for 4 days with laxatives the last two of those days post surgery...suppositories did not work and I was forced to do an enema.  I was in horrible pain.  I usually suffer from diarrhea because I have IBS so I don't ever get constipation so this is a bad situation given I always have diarrhea.   So can I take Senakot (stool softener plus laxative) the day of chemo?

PA:  Ok.  Take one Senakot in the morning of chemo and then 2 stool softeners that night.

Me: OK (I wrote it down)

This was only the first part of our conversation....you should hear the lecture I got for working out.  I DON'T want to go see her every week during chemo. She's horrible.   She acted like I was a pain in the butt patient.  I also went off on her about the port because they refused to draw my blood (done weekly) from the port.  They will only use my veins (oh what fun when you have a port and that's what it is for).  I basically found out from her that they don't want to use my port for blood draws because it is inconvenient for the nurses because they are busy with chemo.  Are you kidding me?  Am I crazy?  

I told her I was talked into getting a port and it was NEVER discussed with my prior that it would only be for chemo only.  I don't know why I even got the port...then she said something to the effect  of "if it's too difficult for you to get poked for a blood draw I am sure we can works something out...."  I handled a bilateral mastectomy so I really don't think a blood draw is "traumatic" for me.  I just prefer you use the port because that is what it is for.  I was so mad.  I said "I am over it...I don't care about the blood draws...the point is this was POOR communication and someone should have made that clear to me before I was talked into getting a port.  I would have not got the port and had an additional surgery for only four chemo sessions".   OMG!  I have to see her EVERY week during chemo........I want to see if they have another PA.  She was horrible and unprofessional. 

I feel like if you are an educated patient they view you as a pain in the ass.  They prefer stupid patients that have no questions and simply smile and nod like a puppet.  They prefer people that will feel sick and then call and whine begging for help for stupid shit verses a patient that is proactive and prefers to avoid the side effects.  I can't believe that this woman is in a profession dealing with people that have cancer. 

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.....

On a positive note, I am doing much better today.  Yesterday's bone pain was agonizing for me.  I was so tired by last night.  I took a xanax and went to bed.  Last night I actually slept the best I have in the last week.  I woke up feeling like a "new woman"!  Thank God.  Yesterday's woman was feeling pretty crappy!  I managed to get to the gym and workout for 40 minutes (yea!) and run a bunch of errands.  By 7pm tonight I was a bit tired, but not bad.  If I stay like this, I can do the chemo OK.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bone pain....

I am six days out after my first chemotherapy session.  I have been getting by OK but today got crappy.  I woke up at 2:00am with horrible pain in my pelvis, sacrum and lower back. It was intense, shooting pains - like nerve pain but way more intense.  It was like the pain would just shoot though my soul.  It was so horrible.  I just could not get comfortable after that so I was up most of the rest of the night.  What does a girl have to do to get some sleep???  Ativan, xanax and ambien do not work...I have not had more than 5 hours sleep since my chemo on 3/2!  Ugh!

Needless to say, today was long.  My body is just aching from the bone pain (the bone pain is a side effect of the neulasta shot I was given a day after chemo to stimulate blood cells).  I have never experienced pain exactly like this...it brings me to my knees and is so intense.  After hours of shooting like pains, the pain started to get more like an intense ache in my hips, pelvis and upper thighs.  It feels like the body aches from the flu but much worse.  No matter if you sit, stand, lay - whatever, you just don't get relief.  I tried taking Tylenol, I did hot baths, stretched and laid down but there has been no relief.  I just kept moving today to not think about it.  I got my butt out of bed and went to the gym and did the elliptical for 45 minutes (that was the only time I was not in pain today) and stretched.  That felt good, but as soon as I left the gym, the intense pain was back. 

I have no idea how long this is going to last, but it just sucks!  I am so uncomfortable.  It just drives me crazy knowing that I have to do this three more times.  What torture.  Can I just say that breast cancer sucks???? 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Throwing everything out

Now that I have realized how bad most make up, body care products, shampoo, etc...is for me, I have been on a binge to get rid of anything bad in my house.  What a huge task and an expensive one at that! Lord! 

Yesterday I went in my bathroom and pulled everything out of the cabinet.  I got a garbage bag and just started throwing everything away.  I read the labels on everything and realized that all my products contain parabens and sulfates which are not good for me.  I threw out shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, deep conditioner, deodorant, body lotion, bubble bath, soap, make up, moisturizers and more.  All I can say is "cha-ching".  I threw away so much yesterday - the bag was full.  I would hate to add up how much money all that stuff was worth.  I guess I am better off not knowing or telling my husband!

I replaced my make up with Physican's Formula Organic make up and Aveda make up products.  I switched my shampoos and conditioners to the Organix line and Burt's Bee's products. I also got Burt's Bees body lotion, hand lotion and tinted lip balms (instead of lipstick).  Then I switched body soap to the Jason brand which is also organic.  I now have Aveda Be Curly hair gel for curly days and Giovanni hair straightener for straight hair days.  There is even a Giovanni organic hairspray which I don't like too well, but it will do for now.  I did get some other hair gels made by the Organix brand that are made from Moroccan oil and coconut oils.  The deodorant of choice is Bubble and Bee that I ordered online a few weeks ago.  My bathroom is paraben, sulfate and chemical free now!  What a relief!

Now I have to move on to my son's bathroom and my husband's health care products.  I don't want them using the crappy stuff either.  I did get my son the Burt's Bees' no tears baby shampoo today while I was out.  Now I need to find a body wash and body lotion for my son.  I think I will run to Meijer or Target this week and see what else they have for organic and chemical free products.  They had a lot of choices last time I was there.  I also need to find hand soaps for all the bathrooms that are chemical free and then I move on to cleaning products.  I will have to switch out so many things to remove these bad chemicals from our house, but it's worth the effort to me.  I know it's not good for me or my family.  I can only imagine how much it is going to run me for all the remaining soaps and cleaning products.  I guess it's all part of the process of breast cancer.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Full of shit....literally

Yes, I read there can be constipation from chemotherapy and I asked all kinds of questions in advance so I could avoid this unfortunate situation.  I asked "can I take a laxative on the day of chemo?" and I was told, "you shouldn't do that - you may not have any issues". Blah, blah, blah......why do I listen to these people?

So not so bright, but very early this morning (5:45am), I was suffering in agony in the bathroom on the toilet.  (Yes, this is too much information but then again I have no modesty anymore after getting breast cancer so I don't care).  I had to poop so bad but could not go.  I felt like I had rocks in my colon. Ugh!  It was awful.  There I sat, in the dark, moaning as I was literally full of shit!  I had to get my husband out of bed and send him to the pharmacy for another Fleets Enema at 5:45am!  OMG!  Thank goodness the pharmacy is only 2 miles away! 

I waited and waited for him to come back like I was waiting for a present or something good - that's how desperate I was!  I was actually looking forward to the enema!  Lord help me.  I was full of shit!

Once I was no longer full of shit, it was a relief.  Good lord....these nurses should just tell people to take a laxative, PERIOD!  I normally suffer from IBS with diarrhea....can you imagine how someone that is normally constipated would have been in this situation!?!?! All I know is that I don't plan on being "full of shit" after the next chemo.  I am taking a laxative and I don't care what anyone says.  Oh and by the way...those stool softeners are worthless - FYI.  I took those for 2 days with no luck. 

Other than the poop issue, I am still OK post chemo.  I am sore from the good workout I did on my legs yesterday at the gym (ouch!) and did not sleep too good from the tissue expander fill from yesterday.  I am tired because of that, but don't really feel ill from the chemo yet.  I have been hungry, but nothing sounds good.  I have been eating toast, pasta and pretzels.  I don't feel nausea at all or have a bad taste in my mouth.  I just can't think of any food that actually sounds good to eat.  I have no idea what I am going to have for dinner...but I am hungry again!  I am going to force some more water down because it is good for me, right?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two days after chemo...still good!

It is now Friday and I had the first chemo on Wednesday.  I am feeling great.  I am shocked and stunned.  I keep waiting to feel crappy because everyone says I will feel bad at some point.  I will take the great day that I had today and savor that!

Today I was up early as usual.  Got my son dressed and ready for school.  We had breakfast and got ready to leave for school.  My only complaint was the little bit of constipation that started this morning.  I never have constipation - I usually have diarrhea because I have IBS so I know the chemo has something to do with that.  At least it wasn't that bad though.

The best moment of the morning was my 4 year old son helping me.  He often has constipation and I usually will sit in the bathroom on the step stool with him when he is trying to go and can't.  I will encourage him and tell him to gently push the poopies out.  We will talk and I will try to relax him so he can go when this happens.  Today when it was time to leave for school I told him I had to go to the bathroom but it may be a few minutes because I was having a hard time going poop.  I explained that the special medicine the doctors gave me makes it hard for me to go potty.  He said "OK".  I went in the bathroom and a minute later he came in and pulled up the step stool and sat down.  He said "it's OK mommy, you will push the poopies out".  He then opened up his new, favorite Star Wars Lego book and started to show me the pages and try to read it to me while I tried to go.  When I was finally able to go he said "Mommy, I can see the poopies coming out!  You did a good job".  That was priceless......

After my poop diversion, I dropped him off at school and headed to the gym.  I worked out for an hour doing circuit training and weights.  It felt so good to workout like I use to (at a little lighter pace - but better than just walking).  I stretched good and got on with my day.  I had one more tissue expander fill today.  I am now 410cc's.  It's not hurting to bad yet.  I took some tylenol and am hoping for the best.  I don't know what is going on, but I am starving today!  Ugh!  I feel like I want to keep eating all day!  I am keeping up on the water to flush that crappy chemo out of my body.  Let's hope for the best tomorrow!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The day after my first chemo

Hard to believe, but it was just like any other day today.  I don't know what I expected, but so far so good.  I know all days may not be like today, but today felt great.  I was up early at my usual time, 6:30am to get my son ready for school.  Once he was out the door I had a healthy breakfast along with 3 large glasses of water.  I hit the gym an did the elliptical for 40 minutes and even used my arms the whole time.  I did all my rehabilitation stretches and then ran some errands.  I had lunch - organic chicken and veggie soup with a few more glasses of water and then went to physical therapy.  My therapist is starting me on a lot more light weight training which is nice.  I could really feel my muscles working and that felt great.  I went to the medical oncologist office and had my neulasta shot (to stimulate white blood cells) which was not fun.  That shot burns!  Ick!  I went to the mall and treated myself to a Pandora ring.  They have some assorted rings that are all different that you can just stack on one finger.  I decided before chemo that I would buy one for myself after each of my four chemo sessions.  Today I could not wait to go out and buy my first one!  I love it and am wearing it now. Here is the link to my new ring:


I also dropped $170 at Aveda getting all natural make up and some hair styling gel I can use during the cold cap process.  Wow is that store pricey!  I guess when you can't have products that contain sulfates, parabens or metals you have to pay the price to get stuff!  Oh well.  I know I need to make these changes to be as healthy as I can so it's worth it.  Then I realized it was time to pick up my son from school.

I had a full day.  A great day!  I can't believe it!  I imagined myself waking up barfing and being exhausted.  I know that this can still happen and maybe in the next few days I won't feel so good, but it was nice to feel just like myself today.  I keep telling myself over and over again "I am not going to have all of those side effects.  I don't plan on being sick or losing my hair".  I am going to keep saying this and I am sticking to it!  That's just the way it is.  I am going to keep pushing myself to be healthy and strong.  That's what will get me through this.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Officially completed 25% of my chemo

Today was my first chemo session.  I was stressed trying to get up and get my 4 year old off to school this morning and get to my appointment on time at 8am.  Of course my son was in rare form and was having typical 4 year old meltdowns all morning.  Nothing like starting your first day of chemo with that, but that's part of being a mommy I guess. I quickly wolfed down some wheat toast, my vitamins and a few large glasses of water (water is important around chemo time to flush the chemo out of the body and reduce side effects).  I then took an Ativan right before we left to calm me for the cold caps. 

Once we got our son off to school, my husband and I headed to the cancer center with all of our hair saving products and food for the day.  My friend Shari who was joining us to help today was there when we arrived.  I am so lucky to have her as a good friend!   She is always there for me.  We were there by 8am and I had my regular blood work.  We then met with the doctor and reviewed any other questions and concerns.  By 8:45am I was putting on my first cold cap.  It was COLD to say the least, but in a few minutes it did not really bother me at all.  We changed the first two caps after 20 minutes each and then the third cap went on for 30 minutes.  Ten minutes into the 3rd cap the nurse started the chemo.  At that point since the first drug administered was taxotere, I was also icing my fingers, toes and had ice in my mouth all while wearing the cold caps.  That was the hour and a half that was the coldest to me.  The ice on my feet was the worst.  It bothered me way more than the caps on my head.  We continued to change the caps every 30 minutes for the rest of the day. 

We went through 14 caps in all and got done around 4:45pm.  It was a long day in some ways, but I thought it went by way easier and faster than I ever anticipated.  My husband and friend were diligent about getting the caps on just perfect and had a routine down by the 3rd cap.  They took care of my every need, feeding me ice, taking me to the bathroom and tucking me under the electric blanket after each cap change.  It was a good day.  I packed a fabulous healthy picnic lunch for us along with snacks and beverages.  We all had a good day talking and laughing and enjoying spending time together.  I never felt like I was there for cancer.  It was a good distraction having the caps and good company.

After today I know I can do this three more times. No question in my mind.  If anyone out there is thinking about doing the cold caps, it is completely doable!  Don't be afraid.  If I can do it, so can you!  Now I wait to see how my body handles the drugs and the cold caps.  The hair usually starts falling out from my chemo regimen between days 14 and 21.  Now I just wait and see what happens.  The next few weeks will be long.  I hope I have good success.  Until then I will baby my hair and follow all the instructions for good hair care while using the cold caps that I was given, and hope for the best.   Just what I love, more waiting............

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everything is different 3 months later

As I get ready to start chemo tomorrow, I keep thinking about all that has happened in the past few months and how life is so different.  In the beginning of December, I started my day like any other day.  I got up, showered, got my son off to school and was off to work with one little stop on the way.  I stopped to have a follow up mammogram and it never crossed my mind it would be any more than that.  I guess I just never thought I could wind up here, with cancer. 

I remember that cold, beautiful sunny morning as I left the cancer center to drive to my husband's office and tell him they thought I had breast cancer.  It was so gorgeous out....such a clear blue sky and such bright sun.  I had my sunglasses on as I cried and drove the 25 miles to my husband's office.  I can still see the look on his face when I tried to tell him and just sobbed.  Everything still seems so clear in my head.  That was the day that changed everything forever. 

Now that it is almost three months later, I can barely comprehend all that has happened.  Visiting cancer centers, meeting surgeons, meeting medical oncologists, lumpectomy, sentinel node biopsy, mastectomy, getting a chemo port and now, starting chemo tomorrow.  I remember at the beginning of this just hoping time would go quickly and I could get through this fast.  Now I can't believe that almost three months has already gone by!  I also still can't believe that this is my life and I have breast cancer.

I guess I have to stop for a moment and marvel all I have already come through.  I have been so fixated on everything else that lies before me that I never really stopped to think about everything I have already completed.  I remember being so scared for the biopsy, the first surgery and especially the mastectomy surgery.  I got through all of that fine, so why should chemo be any different? 

It has been a long road for sure.  I am trying to think about what I have learned through all of this so far.  I am not sure what I am taking away from this experience so far.  I know that I never took the time before this to realize how many people love me and care about me so much.  I have had those special moments with my family and friends where they have told me exactly how they feel about me and what I have brought to their life.  These are the things we never take the time to tell the people we care about.  That is truly a blessing.  I can still recall those emotional, loving conversations with all of the special people in my life. 

I know that the things I worried about before my diagnosis, don't worry me any more!  I use to worry a lot about money and jobs and making sure we would be secure financially.  That caused me a lot of stress.  Now I just don't waste time thinking about it.  I figure that somehow it will all work out as long as we are together as a family.  We will do what we have to do and get by fine.  I use to worry about work a lot too.  Maybe it's because I am on short term disability right now, but I just don't care about work.  I guess when I go back to work I know I will find a better balance of work and personal life because work really is just that, work.  It does not define me or my life.  When I work, I will give it my all, but when I am done for the day it will be put aside so I can spend time doing the things that really matter. 

When I think about how I am handling all of this, I don't know what to think.  Everyone keeps saying how amazing I am and how strong I am.  I don't feel like that.  I feel like I was dealt some pretty bad shit and I am just dealing with is because I don't have a choice.  I have cancer....I have to do this crap.  It doesn't make me amazing or strong, it's just the life that stands before me and I have to keep walking through it.  People always say "I could never do that" which drives me crazy.  If someone told you that you had cancer, you WOULD do it because you would have no choice!  The only difference between me and someone else is that I don't have a choice.  I have to do this.  That does not make me strong or amazing.  I am being forced to do this every step of the way. 

I know I am trying to picture life after breast cancer.  I picture a life with more time spent with the people I really care about.  I imagine especially spending more time with my son doing fun and memorable things.  I see happy vacations filled with lots of laughter.  I see a healthy, fit, sexy woman with a smile on her face.  I see a woman helping others get through the treatment of breast cancer and coming out feeling good.  For now, I hold on to what I see in my head and long for the day when all of that is reality.  I have already come through almost three months of this without even realizing that!  I wonder what life will be like three months from now for me.  I know for sure chemo will be over and it will almost be time for my surgery to put my permanent implants in.  Once that is over with, maybe the life I see in my mind will come to be.  I hope and pray for that every day.