each day seems to hold something new

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a blog post about this next topic …. but it’s kind of a big change I’ve been dealing with so I figured why not put it out there. Sooooo… the topic of today’s blog post is Hair Loss, which is a common side effect from the type of chemo I’m receiving.

Being that I’ve gone through chemotherapy before, I did experience hair loss with my first time on chemo in 2011. But just because I experienced hair loss the 1st time doesn’t mean this 2nd time is really any easier. In the last few days I started to notice larger chunks of hair beginning to fall out rather quickly. I knew the time was coming to say good-bye to my hair, again. Each day always seems to hold something new.

Since it was time to do something about this hair loss thing, I talked it over with my husband and we decided to do what we did the 1st time this happened; shave my head. For any cancer patients who may be reading this I highly recommend shaving your head with a pair of clippers that have a 1 inch to 2 inch guard so that a little bit of hair is still left around the head. I’ve heard trimming right down to your skin may cause irritation.

It’s an interesting feeling watching my husband set up his clippers knowing its not to shave his head but mine. With the anticipation rising, my husband and I basically looked at each other and we were like “Ok, lets do this!” My husband did an AWESOME job. Now my hair is super short, about 1 inch long. I have to admit it was actually kind of a relief to get it done, another thing to check off of my to-do list. And while its a bummer having to do this, unfortunately its part of the process.

Meanwhile during all of this, my son Aidan was home the whole time. We were very open with him about my hair loss, explained to him why its happening and why dad’s going to shave mom’s head. Aidan was so wonderful about understanding this process. We made sure to make it sound fun and keep the explanation very simple. We asked if he wanted to join in on the “fun” and at first Aidan said no which was totally fine. But about halfway through, next thing we know, Aidan decided to join us and hang out with us while my husband was shaving my head. It was very cool that Aidan wanted to be part of everything too, I think it made it even more easier for him to understand this new change that was taking place. When the hair cut was complete, I was a little nervous about how Aidan was going to take it all in, and I guess what calmed my nerves down the most was when Aidan said to me now I have a “Rocker Girls” hair cut which in Aidan’s book it’s a good thing! I thought his comment was GREAT.

But I’m going to be honest, I don’t have the guts to walk around in public with my super short hair right now and it is still continuing to fall out. I needed to make a decision on how I wanted to handle this new “hair” situation. During chemo the first time I decided not to wear a wig til my chemo was over, instead I wore a scarf with a hat over it. Maybe it’s because I’m going thru this a second time and I want to change things up, so I decided I’m going to try to wear a wig throughout the duration of the chemo I am getting now.

Here’s the part of my post I’d like to give a shout out to: The Headquarters Salon, Spa & Wig Store, primarily a huge props shout out to Cathy who is the Wig Specialist for The Headquarters Wig Store. If you’re a cancer patient dealing with hair loss in North County San Diego I highly suggest setting up an appointment with Cathy (760) 744-2911 to discuss with her your situation. Cathy has over 30 years of experience with providing wig services and her experience certainly shows. This is my 2nd time going back to Cathy. She has been just as wonderful and helpful as she was when she helped me get fitted for a wig after my chemo was complete in 2011. Cathy is so very thoughtful when it comes to patients going through chemotherapy. The Headquarters Salon & Wig Store is located in San Marcos on Twin Oaks Valley Road. You can find their full address on their website.

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A little pic of me in my new wig.

I’d also like to add, since wigs can be rather costly for certain individuals such as myself, Cathy and her son Tim have put together a non-profit foundation called Feel Great Look Great Foundation, Inc. If you are a cancer patient and have hair loss from your treatment but have been discouraged by the cost of a wig due to a tight financial situation I suggest contacting Cathy and her son Tim to see if they can help you at 760-744-2911. Their foundation is based upon wanting to give women the gift of feeling good about themselves while going through chemotherapy. The Feel Great Look Great Foundation, Inc. made a generous contribution towards my wig which I am super thankful for. They helped me purchase a beautiful wig at an affordable price for my current situation. If you are a cancer patient searching for help with hair loss in San Diego, Cathy is an excellent person to consult with, and could possibly help you get into a wig that is just the right fit.

I always want to help where I can especially to those who are cancer patients. I hope this post has been helpful and informative!

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finding my way

I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up to my last blog post. I appreciate SO much the outpour of support from everyone. I seriously cannot thank everyone enough for your kind inspiring motivating words, for your thoughts, for your prayers, and for everything else in between. Thank you!!!

In my last post I was questioning all these fun objects that are going to make themselves a home in my chest such as the tissue expanders which will be in for about the next 6 – 8 months. And my port, which is an awesome device, will be in on the right side of my chest under my skin for over a year. To bring things up-to-date from my last post, the tissue expanders have been in since my surgery in December 2013, my port was put in at the beginning of this month, and since my last blog post I had my 1st cycle of chemo at the beginning of this month also.

I ended up having my port put in the day before my 1st chemo treatment. I was pretty sore after the port was put in and my skin had a funky reaction to something from the procedure. But despite any soreness or funky skin I needed to suck it up and keep moving forward when it comes to treating cancer. The next day it was time to start chemo. To put it simple, anxiety levels were flying high on that first day. I have to admit, I have some funky and goofy ways of dealing with stuff, and I pretty much stayed right on par with my goofy ways of dealing with everything on that first day of chemo. Thankfully I had a really REALLY cool and understanding chemo nurse, she helped a lot with making the day go pretty ok. I believe we were at the doctors office for about 5 – 6 hours on that first day. And when I say “we” I mean my husband and myself. I was so incredibly thankful my husband could be there with me. Please PLEASE give huge massive props to my husband, as he is so awesome for all his support through this because it’s definitely not easy to be the one on the other side having to watch the person you love go through stuff like this. It’s my husband’s 2nd time around with this, with me receiving chemo again, and that’s just in the last 3 – 4 years.

When getting chemo, I would say everyone’s experience with it is somewhat different, we each have our own story to tell… for me it’s getting over the anxiety of having a chemical enter my body again after having a bad reaction during the first time chemo was given to me in 2010, and then getting over the anxiety of what type of effects is this chemical going to do to my body. Nonetheless, with having this chemical enter your body comes finding a routine; learning what your body is going to do in the next few days after the chemo drug has been administered, and learning how to prepare ahead of time for the next cycle in order to manage the side effects if there are any. I guess I feel like I’m at a stage where I’m trying to find my way thru all this chemo stuff again. I’m on a different chemo med, but doing Herceptin again as well, so I’m on a slightly different cocktail than I had before. And maybe you may ask what got me through the first day of chemo? I brought a lot of stuff with me (a portable DVD player, snacks, etc.) to keep me busy because I’m there for such a long amount of time. But I would say, a big contribution in getting thru the day is when the chemo nurse started asking me about my son, boy the nurse hit it right on target. She got me thinking about my son (Iron Aidan!) which lead BeingPink_Feb10_2014to me thinking about my hubby and my son. Then good thoughts and happy moments always flood my mind about these two guys! And that truly helps make things better, those 2 guys, my hubby and my son, are my best distractions and the most wonderful sources of happiness for sure. I am so thankful to both my husband and my son because while I’m still trying to find my way through all of this I have these 2 really cool guys in my life to help keep me motivated and focused which is awesome.

Expanders, Ports, Chemo… Oh My!

While my surgery has come and gone, the process of fighting breast cancer certainly doesn’t stop. It’s pretty crazy all the info that has been given to my husband and myself in the last few weeks. And as we visit with each doctor I leave my appointments thinking either…. “you’re going to inject me with what?” or “you’re gonna stick that where? …and is there really room in my chest for all that???” And that’s why I call this post Expanders, Ports, Chemo… Oh My!

With having a double mastectomy with reconstruction,  this involves not only removing the breast tissue but also the plastic surgeon placing tissue expanders under my chest muscles. The expanders job is to stretch my skin and to create pockets for an implant. Inserting the implant is a surgical procedure that will take place after my chemo. For the expanders to expand the skin they need to be injected with saline, this process is known as a filling. For me the fillings have been pretty painful, it’s definitely not a walk in the park by no means. Last week my husband and I had a long talk with the plastic surgeon about my choices with reconstruction. Since I’m going through this a 2nd time and have had radiation on the left breast in 2011, this makes the skin, muscles and blood vessels on the left side harder to work with and surgery maybe more challenging. I’m very appreciative my plastic surgeon took the time to sit with us and discuss in detail more about the challenges of reconstruction with radiated skin. I have some major decisions to make that have been honestly pretty hard for me to figure out right now, so we’ve decided to put the decision about the rest of my reconstruction surgery on hold for the next few months as I need to switch gears and focus on chemo.

Next up I will be getting a port soon. The port I must say is a pretty cool device inserted under your skin sometimes its placed on the right or left side of the chest wall. The port basically looks like a button a little bit larger than your finger nail on your thumb, it has a tube coming out of it and the tube is inserted into a large vein near your neck. Have I grossed anyone out yet? This is all put in place so the chemo nurses can insert a special needle through one’s skin down into the button like feature, the needle stays in place while the medicine is dripped through a chemo bag, runs through the needle into the port and into the vein. Ports help take the place of being poked in the arm each time one would receive chemo, and for people such as myself who will be getting Herceptin weekly for a year it relieves me of being poked in the arm weekly. I’ve had a port before due to already having had chemo, but I have a little bit of extra anxiety this time around because there’s a chance they will be putting the port above the expanders. So when I question, “…is there really room in my chest for all that?” its because it feels like so much is going into a little spot. I have the expanders, then some muscle, then a port, and then my skin, sigh.

Finally, chemo. One may think having already gone thru chemo I may feel slightly less stress and anxiety about this phase of my treatment, but honestly its really just as hard as the first time around. Actually, maybe even harder because I know what chemo can do to your body. I have new types of chemo I will be receiving and will be revisiting Herceptin as well. I have a chemo class today that my husband and I will be attending, I have many questions to ask and so on. Chemo will be starting really super soon, and I’m trying to be as prepared as much as I can for this next phase of my treatment.

10 Good Things

It’s been awhile since I made a blog post, I apologize for the delay. With my surgery being in December and with the HappyHolidays_BP_smholidays as well, December simply was a crazy month. I’m still in recovery-mode from my surgery, its kind of a day-by-day thing for me as I heal from everything. I’m hoping to try to keep my blog more up-to-date in the New Year. I’m a little late with this but wanted to mention I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 holiday season!

With going through a double mastectomy with reconstruction I must say I’ve experienced some ups and downs during my recovery which I’m assuming is normal. To help stay on track I thought it might be nice to reflect upon the good things that have come from my surgery and share these items on my blog.

Here are 10 Good Things that came from my surgery:

1. This may sound cheesy, but I must say I was super proud of myself for not accidently eating anything after 9pm and drinking anything after 12am the night before my surgery. I get extra forgetful when I’m super nervous, but made sure for this procedure to constantly remind myself not to eat or drink anything and thankfully stuck to it.

2. While waiting to be rolled into the operating room, as nervous and scared as I was, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of excitement because I was finally getting rid of the tumor.

3. Watching my relationship grow with my surgeon. My surgeon has been with me on this journey since the start of my 1st diagnosis in 2010. I can’t thank my surgeon enough for putting up with me and for really taking the time to get to know me. One of the best moments with my surgeon was at my Post Op visit when my surgeon shared with my husband and myself how pleased she was with the decision to do the double mastectomy. She went on to tell us in the final pathology report I actually had a 2nd tumor starting to grow in the same breast with the original tumor that I found a few months ago. My surgeon suspected there might be a 2nd tumor starting in the right breast, and she was correct. Ever since that moment I have felt even more happy and satisfied for doing this surgery. I’m thankful my surgeon was able to remove both tumors during the double mastectomy.

4. Having the last of my drains removed on Christmas Eve was so awesome. I don’t want to gross anyone out but when I woke up from surgery there are these lovely drains attached to you on both sides of your body. The drains are honestly no fun, but it comes along with the process. It was the biggest relief when the last of the drains came out….. yay!!

5. New and unexpected people came into my life. A teacher from Aidan’s school was so generous as to talk with me about her experiences with having the same surgery as I had. I am so thankful to have met her, she is such an inspiration to me. I received a beautiful care package from this teacher who filled the package with useful items related to my surgery. I can’t thank her enough for her support and well wishes. I keep her in my prayers and continually wishing her much strength throughout her journey as well.

6. Was able to pull off a wonderful Christmas for my 6 year old son despite what was going on. I love seeing the look on my son’s face on Christmas morning when he sees his gifts for the first time, his joy is priceless.

7. I have a greater appreciation for driving. I haven’t been able to drive til recently and even then trying to drive now has been a slow process to get back into. There’s a lot more involved with your body when it comes to turning a steering wheel than I had realized.

8. My hubby who I am continuously and constantly learning from and who inspires me. He’s so awesome how he processes all the large amounts of info we get from the doctors and then lays it our for me in a way he knows I’ll get it.

9. All the wonderful acts of kindness… inspiring messages sent by cards, email and text, thoughts and prayers for myself and my family, beautiful gifts, and all the thoughtful words I’ve received seriously mean so much to me and my family. We are hugely appreciative from all the support we’ve received from family and friends. From my best friend taking Aidan on a movie date to gifts from family in Colorado to beautiful get well wishes from Aidan’s 6 year old friend, the list goes on, please know we are so appreciative and can’t thank everyone enough for your help, inspiration, motivation and support.

10. My son, Aidan, this little guy who is 6 years old going on 25 years old. It’s not easy going thru this when you have a young child, all I want to do is protect him and make everything seem normal, but with having such an intuitive child its not so easy to pass things off like all is normal. But good stuff has come from this, my lil guy is such a trooper. He made me a wonderful get well card which I received while in the hospital which totally made my day. Aidan has been so super helpful, I can tell it makes him proud to help where he can. A very touching moment for me was on New Years Eve, I asked Aidan what are his wishes for the New Year and he said for me to get better. Wow… that was quite an emotional moment, his wish is always on my mind and such a huge motivation and reminder to keep pushing forward with all of this. And of course, that is my plan… to get better for this precious thoughtful lil guy who means the world to me!

Lastly, I guess I could say I’m about to enter the next phase of my treatment which is chemo. We’re in the process now of getting the details of my treatment sorted out. I should know more about my chemo treatments next week.

Pumpkin Pie

Is it really November already?! Well, October went really really fast! I was hoping to post more in October but got caught up towards the end of the month with doctor stuff and of course Halloween activities with Aidan. With the thought of surgery and chemo on the horizon, I’m finding I’ve been taking in every moment I can with extra special appreciation. Normal stuff has become even more special such as Trick or Treating with Aidan (who made for a wonderful Captain America!), walking around being nosy in Target or Michaels, taking Aidan to little activities with friends, and so on. I know I’ll be able to do these things again, but I’m thinking it’ll be somewhat different in the months to come when I’m out and about so I figure cherish these moments now, and enjoy the big and little things in life!

Soooo… here’s a little update about what’s been going on… my PET CT scan and Bone Scan results came back that things are ok. There’s still a chance the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes under my arm, to check this out, during surgery my surgeon will conduct a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy. If my surgeon should find any positive lymph nodes during the Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy she will go in and remove more nodes. In October, we confirmed with my surgeon I will be having a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I also met with a plastic surgeon to go over the reconstruction side of everything which honestly that appointment left me a little extra overwhelmed. As far as it goes with reconstruction, there are some extra things to take into consideration for me since I’ve already had surgery and radiation on the left breast. And finally my oncologist confirmed the cancer in my right breast carries the same characteristics as the 1st cancer that was diagnosed in my left breast in 2010, estrogen+, progesterone+ and HER2 +. My oncologist confirmed as well that I will need chemo and Herceptin again which will follow shortly after my recovery from surgery.

I now have a date scheduled for surgery. At first it looked like it was going to be in November, but ppiesurgery is now firmly scheduled for the second week in December. Right smack in between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, ha! I’ve decided, in case my appetite isn’t quite up to par when Christmas rolls around since I’ll be in recovery mode at that point, I’m going to try to make sure to enjoy all the festivities that come along with Thanksgiving, especially pumpkin pie! In fact, I already started early with the pumpkin pie (it’s one of my favorite pies!), bought a whole pumpkin pie from Sprouts and even shared with the hubby! Ha! I’m already eying the pumpkin pies again when I go into Sprouts and will probably be purchasing another one soon! Yup, that’s me living it up! 🙂

I also wanted to make sure to take a moment again to thank everyone for their continued support. Seriously can’t thank everybody enough for all the beautiful thoughts and prayers I have been receiving. I am always truly touched from all the wonderful ways people pop into my life and lift up my spirits. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you SO much.

Iron Aidan

First and foremost, welcome to my blog! I’m excited to have started this blog and to be documenting my experiences about Breast Cancer. I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer in October/November 2010 and my family and I have been on quite a roller coaster ride ever since.

Well, that ride has taken another turn as I have been recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer again in my other breast. While its been 3 years since my first diagnosis, my doctors have told me they will be looking at this as a “new” cancer. That was an interesting concept to me, that this a “new” cancer. Honestly, it wasn’t the way I was looking at it at first, but now I get where my doctors are coming from about this being “new.” And it also helped having my super supportive husband come along with me to my appointments. He’s helped break everything down for me as well, since there’s a lot of info to take in when your meeting with surgeons, oncologists, etc.

So I figure this will be my new journey and new experiences will come from it, and I’m working on a new approach to all this chaos! And starting this blog is new territory for me. But since I’m pretty young (I’m 34) to be diagnosed twice now with Breast Cancer I thought maybe sharing my experiences will help others. And I want to keep my family and friends who I madly love and adore up-to-date as well.

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My lil guy “Photoshopped” as Iron Man! This was a birthday card I made for my son.

For my first post I dedicate it to my little guy who you’ll probably be hearing a lot about if you choose to follow my blog. Little does Aidan know he’s this huge ginormous source of inspiration for me to keep pushing forward. He often pretends he’s Iron Man (and other super hero’s too!) but he always seems to come back to being Iron Man which I think is awesome! I mean Iron Man is just way cool, he has an extraordinary amount of strength/power which is fun and exciting and hugely inspiring! So I feel very lucky and thankful to have my own Iron Man aka “Iron Aidan” that unknowingly keeps giving me the strength/power to tackle this annoying disease.

To bring family and friends up-to-date, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions because this is all so new. I’m looking at surgery to probably take place before the year is over, but I’ll save that fun stuff for another post! The next step I need to complete is getting a PET/CT and Bone Scan which I finally just got scheduled and both scans will be taking place in the next 2 weeks.

Thank you for stopping by and please check back as I plan (hope) to be regularly making posts to this blog!