August 4, 2018

cancer update

So much happens so quickly around here (and yet I personally spend plenty of time doing nothing at all...hmm) that it is time for a cancer update.

After my last update on here about my surgery, I had an appointment with my oncologist. I kind of knew what was coming (more chemo than I hoped), but that was a really hard appointment. Basically, because of my young age and because the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and because my cancer is lobular (lobular cancer doesn't respond as easily to chemo as the most common type of breast cancer does), I would be getting dose dense chemotherapy. The strong stuff. Eight rounds of chemo, every two weeks. But it wasn't until that night after Eric had done his research and casually told me that my chemo was called "red devil" that I lost it. Red devil was the only type of chemo that I had heard anything about and it was all awful things. And it sent me into a panic.

The next day I had the absolute biggest anxiety attack I have ever experienced. I could not calm my emotions down. Eric gave me a blessing and from that I felt like I needed to trust the medicine the doctors would give me, and had available. And that included humbling myself enough to accept anxiety meds. I took them when I needed them until I started chemo.

A few days later I had my follow up appointment with my breast surgeon and she was able to take out my last two drains. Yippee!! It was such a relief to be drain free. And it was the weirdest thing seeing (and feeling) those last two 8-10 in. drains coming out of my body. I definitely appreciate life without drains now (I guess it takes experiencing the annoyance of them to realize how comfortable and amazing our human bodies are without them). It takes some time for the drain sites to heal up. It's been three weeks since the last two came out and they are still a little sore and bruised, but healing up nicely.

It was another week after my follow up with the breast surgeon before I could really say I was at an excellent place in my recovery (so about three and half weeks post surgery). I was thrilled when I could (carefully!) roll onto my side in bed. (I really am learning to appreciate the small things because that made me SO happy.) I was able to walk a few miles each day as long as I went slowly. I just didn't have to think about my surgery all the time--I didn't have the pain as a constant reminder anymore. Though I was still weak and, of course, still had my torturous no lifting over ten pounds (including my baby!) restriction, but I was actually doing quite well. (If only my cancer treatment stopped right there...)

The most surprising thing to me about my recovery is that I feel quite comfortable with my new scars. I mean they did make me sad and feel a little weird the first few weeks, but now I feel like I've warmed right up to my new look. They don't bother me. Maybe you just get comfortable after showing so many nurses and doctors and hearing them compliment your chest. So, if anything, I find my scars kind of amusing now.

As soon as I felt like my body was on the mend and I was beginning to feel like a human again, it was time to start stage two of get rid of cancer--chemotherapy.

So I had a week of lab work and more testing, things like an echocardiogram. We had another appointment at the oncologist's with the nurse for our "chemo teach".

Then I had a moment of bravery and at the last minute decided to go wig shopping with my sister and my good friend. I told myself I was going to take my time to find a wig I liked. But then after I got in there and started trying on wigs I decided I just wanted wig shopping to be over. I wasn't necessarily sad about it. I feel peace about going bald. I just wanted not to think about it anymore. None of the wigs were very fitting for me. Eventually I picked one, even though I wonder if I will regret it when I pick it up. Here are the awkward pictures.

Then we escaped as a family to Flagstaff for a few days (more on that later). I celebrated my 34th birthday on a sunday with surgery and chemo looming over my head and scheduled for the next day (definitely the gloomiest birthday of my entire life).

So I started my 35th year with an early morning surgery to get my port placed directly followed by my very first chemotherapy. Wahoo!

I'm actually glad I did it all in one day. I think it was better for me to just have one day of complete terror verses two. And my port has been pretty sore so I can't imagine having had to go in a few days later when it was so tender to access it. They just left it accessed for my chemo so it wasn't a problem that day. 

I got my first “red devil”. And survived.

Another shout out to my husband. Eric really is the hero through all of this. He’s right by me for everything.

See, he even braided my hair after my surgery! No better husband than that.

And I think he looks better in a wig than I do.

So how did I do after my first chemo? I was quite dramatic. I spent the first week full of self pity and quite certain that I can’t do this seven more times. I was extremely fatigued. Taking three naps a day. I was achy and felt icky. The bitter taste in my mouth was awful! I could eat. Which was a good thing. But a few days the only thing that sounded good was Mexican pizza from Taco Bell. Weird, huh? My nose feels cold constantly. My heart would pound. My least favorite symptom was the mental fog. My brain felt heavy and it was so hard to understand and process anything. I was dizzy and lightheaded. There has been constipation. And then I broke out in wild acne. Some of these symptoms were with me the whole time. Some came and went back and forth. Some symptoms are from the meds they give me to prevent symptoms from the chemo. Anyways, the whole first week was pretty rough. Though I’m sure it could’ve been worse. I had a good evening a week after chemo. But then had a bad day the next day. Yesterday was day 11 and it was the first day I felt normal, just a little tired. Today is day 12 and I feel like a regular human being again. In 3 days, I start all over again.

I chopped my hair off last week. In preparation.

I am still completely overwhelmed by how good people are. I feel like I have no choice but to stop feeling sorry for myself and to get up and have a good attitude and get through this simply because there are so many good people willing to do anything to show they care and that they are there for me and for our family. Texts, gifts, emails, letters, dinners, watching my kids etc. The love I feel is honestly what is holding me up this week! An older couple came and cleaned my kitchen and vacuumed. Some youth cleaned our house, windows, and car. Someone cut my hair. Someone sat with me most of the day and helped with B and put away my groceries while I lay like a blob on the couch. Someone brought me constipation meds. Someone drove me to the drs last minute when the dr needed to see my acne outbreak. Some came to visit. People are amazing. I am so humbled by their love and generosity. 

So there you have it. My cancer life right now (with more details than you ever wanted to know).