These picture are all selfies, all taken last week. Every time I look in the mirror, I feel like I’m fading away a little more. If I had light eyes, I’d have no features at all!
What little hair I have is nearly transparent and my lashes and eyebrows are falling out now. I can only look somewhat normal with make up and a wig. I won’t lie, I don’t like the way I look right now.
Yes, I know it’s temporary. Hopefully, although now I’ve been reading that eyelashes sometimes come and go after chemo. Yes, I only have one surgery left. If there are no complications. I think I’m getting nervous and I’m just tired of dealing with everything and, God, I want my life back!
Please don’t tell me I’m brave or an inspiration. I don’t feel like I am. What I feel like is a big whiner. Yes, I know I’m entitled to my feelings. But I feel even guiltier having them. I know trading my hair for my health is something I would do again tomorrow if necessary. I’m just tired of looking like this.
Probably you should just ignore me and I’ll get my sense of humor back soon. And I’m only leaving these pictures up for a day or two…
Yesterday was one of the tougher days I’ve had in awhile. I know lots of you love Halloween, but it’s never been a huge favorite of mine. I don’t really know why, never liked the creepy craziness of it, I guess. I like cute, sigh…
October 31 is also the day my dad passed away. He just never woke up that day in 2000 after an apparently massive heart attack, but my parents lived in Arizona at the time so I hadn’t seen him since their anniversary that spring. And then suddenly he was gone. Sixteen years ago…
And yesterday morning was my chemotherapy orientation meeting which consisted of pages and pages of possible side effects from the two drugs I will get, ranging from the mild and uncomfortable to the truly dire. I’m lucky that I will only have four sessions three weeks apart, beginning this Friday. One of my best friends is going with me for moral support.
Surgery, maybe because I’d had it before, was nowhere near as frightening to me as the thought of putting these strong medications into my veins to search for minute cancer cells that might be lurking somewhere in my blood or lymph system.
My hair should fall out sometime in the next few weeks, just in time for the holidays. Perhaps I will lose a nail or two. I may lose my eyebrows and eyelashes, but maybe not. I odered a wig which I think looked a lot like my hair. When my hair starts to come out I’m going to shave it off and wear the wig. I wish I could find the humor in that, but I can’t just yet. Maybe later.
The only really funny thing is that when I called my insurance company to check on coverage for my “cranial prosthesis” the person I talked to on the phone said the cost would be covered. They will pay several hundred dollars for a wig but they don’t cover the cost of my flu shot!
So right now I’m reminding myself that chemo is going to increase my chances of not having a cancer recurrence by a significant amount. I’m trying not to get too freaked out about getting through the next few months of holidays, trying to stay healthy, doing everything that needs to get done when you’re the mom and grandma, and cope with the fatigue and side effects of chemo. My last session will be January 6 and I leave for Maui on January 20, with one slushy saline-filled boob and a bald head, but hopefully I’ll be done with treatment!
I’m tearing up as I write this and questioning whether to publish. But a good friend recently told me I shouldn’t censor my feelings and worry about being entertaining. I did say I’d be honest with you if you joined me on this journey, even if it’s not always fun and funny.
And maybe it’s not so much about the treatment, maybe I’m just missing my dad…
You might have noticed I haven’t posted much lately…or maybe you haven’t. Anyhow, the reason I’ve been away is because I have been away — back in the hospital on Sunday, this time because I developed blood clots in my lungs. The pain of taking a deep breath, coughing, oh, my God, yawning, was excruciating. Luckily two and a half days on an IV of heparin have helped lessen the size of the little buggers and letting blood flow through again, so the pain is less, too.
On Monday, when I saw my hemotologist/oncologist in the hospital, she brought with the results of my genome or Oncotype testing, where they look at the genetic characteristics of your tumor and assign it a number between zero and fifty to determine whether chemotherapy would be helpful in preventing a cancer reoccurrence in the future. Zero to 17 is considered low risk and chemo would probably not make a difference. My number is 24.
So I’m in the intermediate range and she is recommending chemo, of course! She and the surgeon were both very surprised, given how small the cancer was, .8 cm, and the fact that there was nothing found in the lymph nodes. Before the use of Oncotype testing I would have been told, based on what they found, that the chance of reoccurrence was small and chemo wasn’t needed.
The real kicker was a text from my sister letting me know that her beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Reggie, who was 12 and a half, took a huge turn for the worse with his heart issues and they made the very difficult decision to euthanize him. I was sorry I couldn’t be there to cry with her…
So that’s how my week has been going. I got to come home yesterday because my echocardiogram and ultrasound of veins in my legs were good and they could stop the heparin drip. Then to the plastic surgeon and the drain is still in. I have to get my blood INR tested today and my hair cut so it looks good before it falls out!
I was so tired last night I couldn’t stay awake to see my Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants and win their NLDS in major league baseball. I’m reeling from all the events and really exhausted right now so I think I’ll take just a little break from blogging. The pain meds fog my mind and make it hard to be creative, as you might have noticed… But I’ll be back in a few days, barring any other stupid complications… I miss you guys!
I’m just starting my fight against breast cancer, hence the title fighting like a girl. I was at the doctor’s office and they had a wall that people signed with personal messages about their cancer experiences and there was one quote that was my favorite. It said “I fought breast cancer like a girl and I won!” So that’s my new motto…
I’ve finished meeting with the surgeons (general and plastic), the genetic counselor, the oncologist and had the MRI — an experience I don’t care to repeat. That is the noisiest thing, even though they give you earplugs. But it did show that we’re just dealing with the one area on the right side and it appears to be small. So it was well worth the annoying experience to get such detailed pictures!
I think I’ve also shared before that I have a genetic blood clotting disorder that makes me more prone to develop blood clots. It’s something I share with one brother and its called Factor V Leiden. It’s fairly common and not usually a huge worry, but wouldn’t you know it, my case is more difficult!
I found out I had Factor V because two years ago I developed a very large blood clot in my left leg from my knee into my stomach area and spent ten days in the hospital where they had to do a procedure called trellising to mechanically break up and remove the clot. They also put in a filter, threading it in through an incision near my collarbone into the vena cava. It temporarily protects you from a clot moving into your lungs and after your blood thinner starts working well they retrieve the filter. I was part of a study group for the B Braun filter that is now available.
So the thing is, because I had that really big clot and will have to go off the blood thinners again for surgery for several days, they will have to reinsert a filter before they do my surgery. Oh, and the best part is you get to inject yourself in your stomach twice a day with a drug to prevent clots up until and after surgery! And then later, usually within weeks, they will surgically retrieve the filter.
I’ve had a lot of decisions to make about a lumpectomy versus mastectomy, reconstruction if it is a mastectomy, the pros and cons of doing just one side or both sides, the worries about cancer reoccurring, etc. But as my oncologist pointed out, the fact that I can choose means I have many good options!
And one of the most exciting things I’ve found out about is genetic testing of the cancerous tumor that they will do after surgery which helps you and your doctor’s determine if chemotherapy is necessary and helpful. Here’s a link to info from The New York Times about the testing that my dear friend Laura from Fountain Pen Follies sent me that explains a fascinating study that’s been going on that will help thousands of women make good decisions about treatment now and in the future.
Thanks for reading, for all your thoughts, prayers and lovely good wishes, and for riding along with me on this sometimes bumpy journey. I will let you all know when surgery will be and how everything goes. I may not be writing as much for a little bit, but I will be reading your blogs ❤