Author Archives: cancerchica

About cancerchica

I am a mother of 2 kids, Gabriella 10 and Michael 8. I teach second grade. I am engaged to Travis whom also has 2 kids; Connor and Spencer. President of the Junior League of Ann Arbor Diagnosed with Breast Cancer on September 18, 2012 Tumor 1.3 cm ER+ & PR +, Her2+ Stage 1c Lumpectomy on October 17th, 2012 Lymph nodes - and margins clear TCH chemotherapy regimen began on Nov. 18th, 2012 Head shaving party on November 19, 2012

T-231 days. March 1, 2013– Last chemo treatment!!

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The day had finally arrived!! My very last chemo treatment. My sister Alethea flew in for the occasion. My friends Kevin and nurse angel Karen stopped by. My parents and my Aunt Celeste and Dave. It was definitely a party. Definitely a reason to celebrate!!

I had so many people that everyone had to take turns to sit with me and visit. Later we went to eat at my favorite restaraunt Pacific Rim.

What a relief to know I was done!! That said, the after effects of the chemo were the worst with this treatment then any other. The accumulative affect often causes this and makes the last treatment the toughest. I am so blessed to have so many people in my who are my angels and have carried me through this journey of chemo. Most importantly my Travis who took three days off of work for every one of my infusions. He sat by my side, held my hand and wiped my tears every time we had to walk into the cancer center on my Friday infusions. He then cared for me on Mondays and Tuesdays when I was knocked out, felt sick and weak and was in pain. I don’t know how I would have made it without him and his love.

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T-231-March 1st, 2013-Awesome Stuff about Chemo!!!

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Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks–chemo is instant nair!!
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts–money you will use on falsies!!
4. Have to get manicures and pedicures to cover your black nails-What color you like?
5. Everyday is Halloween when you wear your wigs
6. No bikini waxing, eyebrow waxing, or upper lip,,,,,keep that hot wax Away, I’ve got TCH!!

T-252- February 8, 2013-Chemo Infusion # 5…..almost done!!!

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I once read that when you are in a battle you focus on each obstacle in that moment. I have found that saying to be sooo true in chemo treatment. You just do one day at a time and before you know it you are inching near the finish line.

I have had so many amazing amounts of support and love throughout this so far. Many meals made, many visits, people cleaning my house, many cards, many messages. All of it has given me strength to continue take one step a time near the finish line.

T-273 days-January 18, 2013-Chemo Infusion #4

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Ok, so this is beginning to become old hat. Travis and I have a system now. We know what to bring, we know what time to put on the numbing cream for the needle insertion into the port. We know that I’ll be crazy wild and won’t sleep the 2 nights before because of the steroids. We know exactly what day after infusion I’ll begin to feel sick. We know all of the nurses by name. We know we will be at the infusion center all day.

This infusion was the first time I sat in the general infusion area with everyone else. Basically imagine an oval shaped room filled with recliners. There is zero privacy and your just an arms length away from other cancer patients. I continue to struggle with the fact that I am the youngest and the only young person there.
Being JLAA president has been an honor and has given me something else to focus on other then cancer. I try to wear a different wig to every event to keep people guessing.

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T-294 days-December 28, 2012-Chemo Infusion #3, Half way marker!!

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The holidays have always been a joyful time of year filled with cookie baking, presents and Christmas tree chopping. This holiday I found myself experiencing everything on another sensory level. Cancer has backed me into a corner where I am constantly thinking of the fragility of life and has made me take in every little smell, touch and feel. Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts

3 days after Christmas I had to get my 3rd chemo treatment. My kids were with me but fortunately my parents are local and they were able to stay with them. They visited me for the first time which was an amazing gift. Nurses continued to monitor me closely because of the recent reaction to carboplatin. Cytoxin seemed to give me no issues and thankfully the infusion went smoothly.

New Year’s Eve was when everything hit me. The effect of chemo is beginning to become more and more difficult. The inside of my mouth is raw, I am physically exhausted, my bones feel like someone is hitting them with a hammer. My scalp hurts to even touch a pillow. Travis and I have been watching the entire trilogy of Lord of the Rings. I have never laid around and watched so much tv in my entire life.

Sometimes I think the good lord knew my life was too fast paced, too stressful, too toxic and that this was the only way
he could force me to stop, sit back and take time to reassess.

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T-315 days-December 7, 2012–Chemo sends me to ER

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I was less nervous this time. I have done this once and knew what to expect now. Travis was by my side as always. This time I didn’t get the fully private room like the first time but did get a partially private room. When I walk in I’m AGAIN the youngest of anyone at the cancer center. My anger begins to bubble up again.
I sit back getting ready to be poked and prodded. Things are going normal until they connected the carboplatin. Soon after that I began to have a sharp pain in my chest. The nurses were concerned and decreased the drip rate. The pain subsided. They then returned the drip rate to Normal and the pain returned. It was decided to admit me to the ER. I was terrified. Was the chemo now causing me heart issues? I had read that Herceptin can cause issues for the heart and now here I was. At the ER they did an EKG and decided to keep me overnight. Then a cat scan with a strain. The nurse couldn’t put the needle in and poked me 10 times trying to get the needle in. I laid there with tears streaming down my face with the ridiculous amount of pain she was inflicting upon me. I barely slept.

The next morning I had a stress test. The doctors decided that my heart looked fine. At my follow up appt with Beekman she decided to switch me from carboplatin to cytoxin. She said that if the heart pain continued she may decide to stop the chemo. Not have chemo? That was music to my ears.

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T-300 days December 5, 2012 My hair is falling out.

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Even though I knew it was going to happen, I shaved my head in preparation for it…I was still an emotional ball when my hair started to fall out. There is something about losing a part of your body with no prediction of when it will happen that is very unnerving. I knew it when I woke up and I had hair on my pillow. Just sitting there in a pile like a birds nest. Then I took a shower and it started falling out even more. I cried and cried and again was angry at how terrible cancer is. With my hair already being so short it wasn’t dramatic clumps of hair falling out. Regardless, going from a little buzz cut to no hair at all is a psychological mind f$&! I quickly became tired of little hairs all over my clothes, my towels etc. so my husband Travis buzzed it down to my scalp. Bald beauty has arrived!

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T-363 days. What does chemotherapy feel like?-November 19, 2012

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After sitting for hours with my body hooked up to tubes and poison going through my body, hours and days had passed as I waited to FEEL something. The anticipation was odd. So much of the anxiety with cancer is the not knowing. The not knowing when I was going to feel terrible. Saturday and Sunday passed with nothing eventful. I actually felt the same. Monday I went to get my Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a shot I get every Monday after my infusion. Neulasta is used to help make white cells so that your body fights infections during cancer treatment. The shot itself didn’t hurt. They didn’t access my port, just a simple jab in the arm.

Chemodrugz.

Chemodrugz. (Photo credit: Drew Olanoff)

By Monday evening it hit me. My bones ached as if someone was hitting them with a hammer. When Tuesday morning came I didn’t want to get out of my cozy soft bed…..and I didn’t. There I lay sleeping for hours until it was time for Travis to drive me to acupuncture. I told Jingfei of my immense pain in my bones; she expertly placed her needles all over my body. Magically those needles sucked some pain away from my bones and I walked out of her office feeling much better then I had.
The next chemo side effect was my mouth. My teeth felt as if I had braces on them that were tightened with a vice grip. The inside of my mouth felt like raw meat. I couldn’t eat. I could barely move. I felt nausea. I felt like shit. Plain and simple, it was awful. My sleep was fitful at best; the worst pain was in my feet and shins. The pain drove me to tears and loud exclamations of profanity. The chemo was working its black magic on me. How would I endure 5 more times of this?

T-365 days-Head Shaving Party-November 17, 2012

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A quick aside before I begin writing my blog.  I am quite behind in real time and intend on catching up.  Regardless, my goal is to capture the moment in time whether past or present with the raw emotions and details of those events.

I woke up after my first chemo infusion expecting to feel different, look different…..but nothing; it was oddly disappointing.  I jumped into the shower to wash my hair for the last time.  I am not one to feel an unhealthy attachment to my hair but as my fingers were going through my locks tears began to drip down my face.  How many months or years would it be till my hair would be this long again?  I reveled in the sensation of the water dripping through my hair strands, my hair getting stuck to my face….all of these minute seemingly irrelevant motions that I would otherwise rush through in my daily life.  I lifted my head high and reminded myself yet once again that I was making the right decision.  will decide when my hair is going to fall out NOT my cancer.  That sense of control during a time when everything else in my life was toppling over out of control was what I needed.

Many friends and family were attending my head shaving party.  Holly was hosting at her house, Michelle had sent out the invites and made other arrangements.  Everything was set.

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There was champagne and wine flowing, snacks to munch on, many hugs and kisses.  I counted my blessings many times to have such support from so many.  Rather then this being a somber and sad moment it was a time to celebrate!

Me and my boys.

Me and my boys.

So there we all were, with the buzz of conversation flowing through the rooms, laughter ebbing in the hallways.. I knew the time was drawing near, where the buzz would be of clippers against my head.  With my friends and family standing and sitting around me I took the honorary place at the clipping throne.  I did not have a mirror but only the reactions and sounds of everyone to guide me into my transformation.

the head is being shaved

the head is being shaved

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buzz time

buzz time

As I sat there I heard comments of how great I looked and how the “buzzed cut becomes me”.  All around I had smiling faces looking back at me with tears in their eyes.

all done

all done

In solidarity my dear loved ones also shaved their heads; Travis, my dad, Michael and Spencer.  Every one of them sat down and shaved the hair off their head in love for me.

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travis

michael

michael

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My Mr. Handsome getting his head shaved for his mama with breast cancer.

I am not certain if I was more emotional getting my head shaved or watching

Michael shave for me.

me and my girls

me and my girls

With my new Pat Benatar look I was ready for a night out on the town.  With my first chemo under my belt, my hair shaved away we headed out to eat, open presents and celebrate a momentous weekend!

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Our new shaven heads

Our new shaven heads

T-366 days-1st Chemotherapy Infusion–November 16, 2012

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I tossed and turned in my sleep.  I cried….dreading what was going to happen to me.  I took the prescribed steroids and I felt like I was on speed, everything was racing.  Feeling like a baby who wet the bed,  I sweated through my pajamas and the sheets.  Is this what steroids are supposed to do?….no one talks about this when they talk about cancer treatment.  I change out of my wet pj’s and try to sleep thinking of the imminent poison that is about to be put into my veins.   Laying there in the dead of night I start praying to God and ask him to calm me, soothe me, comfort me….and finally my eyes shut.  It seems as if an hour had passed and the alarms begin ringing,  the house is bustling with everyone getting ready to go to school.  I say goodbye to my babies and reassure them that I am going to be ok and will see them very soon.  Once everyone leaves, I embark on the task of getting dressed for my infusion. What does one wear to a chemotherapy?  I grapple with my wardrobe for a moment and turn on fun party music.  As I am singing along to Lady Gaga I decide to go with the fashionable yet practical ” loose and comfortable look  with a splash of pink”. On my wrists hung my breast cancer bracelet and my bracelet with my kids names on them, from my ears my 80’s pink earrings.   I was determined to walk in to the hospital with my head held high and a fearless attitude.  When Travis came home I told him “Let’s get this party started”.  Thus, the party began, we left the house armed with our bags filled with endless hours of entertainment; computers, cards, magazines, books, snacks, beverages.  We were prepared for anything and everything.

I am not certain if I was more anxious about how the chemotherapy was going to feel when it flowed into me OR what everyone else in the infusion clinic would look like.  I continued to want to live in my fantasy world of cancer.  I didn’t want to face the reality of seeing cancer patients who looked as if they were knocking on death’s door.  My anxieties were lessened when I was greeted by my chemotherapy nurse Char.   She shared with us that we would have a private room since it was my first infusion.  Yes!  I could continue to live in my fantasy world of cancer a little longer!  What is even better is I know Char, I have known her for years.  My fears diminished tremendously.  Char begins to tell us how the day is going to run and what we should expect.  She explains that she does not want us to be alarmed when she is wearing a plastic mask and gloves when handling the chemotherapy bags.  She says that she must do this to protect her from the drugs toxicity, since she is exposed to them everyday.  Ok, wait a second!?!  My nurse is going to wear a Hazmat suit to touch the BAG my chemotherapy drugs are in…..the same drugs they are going to intravenously pour into my body……..should this comfort me or make me think that I have lost my mind agreeing to this?  Thanks to the steroids and the tazmanian devil levels of energy it gives me, my mind quickly shifts to another thought……Squirrel!

 

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

As you can see in the above picture we had a pretty cozy set up.  My own bed, complete privacy, a nice little lamp….it was like the Taj Mahal of chemo infusions.  It was time to begin.  They needed to put the needle (which looked more like a fishing 

hook) into my port.  My port is on the inside of my right arm.  Char asked if I had put the numbing cream on my skin, I bravely told her that I didn’t think I would need it.  Shots, and pricks in the arm are not a big deal to me….well let me tell you when Char drove the “fish hook” into my port I thought I was going to scream….no wait I did scream.  It was the most torturous part of the entire day.  For some reason I had this illusion that the port was supposed to me my safety tunnel into my veins, the safe passage way, like the gumdrop pass in Candy Land.  NO!  It was like the Go To Jail card.  After the initial shock and pain of the insertion, they began a saline drip on me, followed by a anti-nausea drug, followed by another anti-nausea drug (I think they don’t want me to have nausea).  Then the party was truly about to start.  They first began with the chemotherapy drug Taxol.  With her hazmat suit on Char hung the Taxol bag on the hook.  I waited to feel something, anything..but I didn’t.

As the Taxol was coursing through my body along with the other drugs that were put in me I had many visitors in my room; my mom, my dear friend Kevin, my nurse angel Karen, the hospital deacon, my dad.  I may have picked up a tinge of annoyance from Char of the constant party like atmosphere in my room.  All we needed was a strobe light and some bass.

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

The next drug invited to the party was Carboplatin.  Char hung the bag of Carboplatin up on the hook.  Drip, drip went the drug and again I waited to feel something…..nothing yet.  Continuous monitoring took place.  Everything was on course.  The party was really going to start with the liquid benadryl they were going to give me.  The purpose of that was to combat any potential allergic reaction that I could have to Herceptin which would be the final drug of the TCH cocktail.   As I was biting into my salad lunch I was hit with a tsunami wave of exhaustion.  I couldn’t end the party by sleeping so I continued to attempt conversation while sounding like a sloppy drunk.  Travis and my mom broke out in laughter as they tried to piece together the garbly gook that was dripping out of my mouth.  Char entered the room with the final cocktail mix; Herceptin.  She reminded me that they would keep a close eye on me to ensure that I didn’t have an allergic reaction and if I were to have one it would be immediate.  She hung the bag and I waited in breathless anticipation to breakout in a rash of purple dots but alas I sailed smoothly through the choppy waters of the Herceptin test.  As the time continued to tick away I realized we had spent over 6 hours in the infusion lab and not once dove into our bag of party goods.  We had been kept so busy with teachings, monitoring and visitors that the party bag collected dust.  My first chemotherapy infusion was drawing to a close.  Other then being drunk on benadryl, I felt no different. As we walked to the car I felt the wind rustle through my hair and I became melancholy knowing that in hours it would be gone.  One major step today and another big one tomorrow.  One step at a time…