Health & Fitness

10 unexpected side effects of chemo

So happy to report that I am at the halfway point in my chemotherapy treatment. I have finished eight treatments and have eight more to go, I am nervous to continue just for the fact that my body is changing so rapidly and I don’t know what it’ll look like at the end of treatment. I am grateful though, to have a chance to heal and most of all grateful for the chance to live. I put together a list of the unexpected side effects of chemo. Some side effects may surprise you!

10. Dry Skin

I look like a lizard. or an alligator. or leather. I have to put lotion on several times a day. I think the chemo must dry your body from the inside out.

9. Sun Spots

I have sun spots in random places. Mostly my arms, but on top of my hands, under my arms and the under part of my fore arms. Its dark and patchy. Most people think it is a bruise. I have been told they will disappear after I end treatment.

8. Thrush

This side effect surprised me. I remember Hannah getting thrush when she was a baby, but it is very real for chemo patients too. My tongue swelled and was very irritated. It was difficult to eat. The only real relief was drinking cold drinks. It went way after a few days. Wayne bought me special toothpaste and mouthwash and that helped.

7.  Loss of Taste Buds

After a few treatments, food tasted different. Some food didn’t even have a taste. A couple of searches on “Dr. Google” and I found I wasn’t alone. Many people complain of loss of taste buds for a very long time. I do find myself salting and flavoring my food more. I don’t have the desire to eat some foods that I used to enjoy.

6. Forgetfulness

Some call it “chemo brain”. I will be in the middle of a conversation and the words just don’t come to me. I can’t even think of what I was going to say. It doesn’t happen often, but it is very frustrating and demeaning.

5. Collapsing Veins

Each week it is getting harder and harder for my blood to be drawn without digging around. It is very painful. I am lucky to have a port inserted for my chemo treatments. I absolutely hate to have blood  drawn from the top of my hand. I can only have  blood drawn from my left arm due to my lymph nodes being removed. Which brings me to number 4….

4. Loss of blood pressure and blood drawn from one arm

After my partial mastectomy surgery, six lymph nodes were removed. When lymph nodes are removed, there is nowhere for lymphatic fluids to drain through. Therefore, any increased pressure results in swelling of lymphatic fluids. For the rest of my life I cannot have blood withdrawn from my right arm or have blood pressure taken in my right arm.

3. Dry Mouth

My  mouth seems constantly dry. It may have something to do with decreased moisture from the inside of my body to the outside similar to having the dry skin. I keep water with me constantly even at night beside my bed. At least I am getting my water intake each day.

2. Diarrhea

A subject not everyone wants to hear about, but very much a reality.  Because of the increased risk of infection, i have to limit my exposure to germs which in turn means I limit my time at grocery stores, public places, restaurants, etc. Every meal usually results in diarrhea. Another great reason to drink a lot of water. (See number 3)

1. People Reaction

The number one unexpected side effect of not just chemotherapy, but of cancer in general, is of people reactions. I have found people fall into two categories, those that completely embrace you & step up to encourage you and those who put a wall up when the word “cancer” is brought up. I have had some very close friends who do not talk about the cancer, do not call or visit or become very nervous around me. I don’t blame them. I think sometimes when people are faced with mortality, they are scared. I try to give them  the space they need to absorb. I often find I am comforting them and I am okay with that. Who better to reassure them that God is in control than me? It takes me “outside” of myself to comfort others who may be uncomfortable.

My second half of treatment starts tomorrow and I am ready for the challenge. Wayne and I are going to take a little overnight trip to the beach this week. I think it is just what the doctor ordered!

Step in Faith,

  

My Breast Cancer Journey {Having a Biopsy}

I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma on November 1, 2016. On December 27, 2016 my cancer was upgraded to Stage 3 due to the size of the tumor removed was 8.5 cm and one lymph node was malignant. One in 8 women will find out they have Breast Cancer each year. More than 80% of Breast Cancer diagnoses are Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. According to breastcancer.org :

“Invasive means that the cancer has “invaded” or spread to the surrounding breast tissues. Ductal means that the cancer began in the milk ducts, which are the “pipes” that carry milk from the milk-producing lobules to the nipple. Carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues that cover internal organs — such as breast tissue. All together, “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” refers to cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Over time, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body.”

This is my story….

So after I FOUND A LUMP,  I made an appointment with my primary doctor. I had just finished my post operative care for my hysterectomy so my doctor’s office was surprised I was making an appointment so soon. Once i told them why, they quickly made an appointment. Unfortunately, my primary physician left the practice so I had to see a nurse practitioner whom I had never met.  Once in the office, she asked me a few questions and examined my breasts. She told me she didn’t think it was anything to worry about and that she really couldn’t feel a lump. I insisted that I could feel the lump in my upper right breast. She told me that since I was insisting that I felt something, she would refer me to get an ultrasound to ease my mind. Insisting to get a second opinion would be the best decision I would ever make.

I was able to get an appointment rather quickly, which was the next week. Wayne went with me to my appointment at a Women’s Center. The Women’s Center completely specializes in women’s diseases. It was decorated very feminine and warm. I felt very comfortable there.

I was escorted to the back dressing rooms and changed into a gown. Since I had an ultrasound many times before I wasn’t too concerned. I was placed into a dimly lit room on a padded table. Two ultrasound technicians conducted the ultrasound. It lasted about 20 minutes. One of the technicians took her findings to a doctor who examined the pictures. The doctor then came into the room and introduced himself . He told me he wanted to take a better look at my right breast. I started to get a very uneasy feeling. My instincts told me I had breast cancer. After the doctor looked at the screen and asked me a few questions, he told me he wanted me to do a biopsy to get a closer look at the lump and know for sure whether or not it was cancer.

My biopsy was scheduled for November 1, 2016 at the Women’s Center with the same doctor. My Mom went with me to the appointment. I never had a biopsy and didn’t know how the procedure would go. The experience turned out to be one of the best I have had with a doctor. The nurse brought me and my Mom back to the dressing rooms. I changed into a gown and they took us into the doctor’s office where he thoroughly explained what to expect. He expressed his concerns about the size of the lump and the timeline to hear about the results of the biopsy.

The doctor took us into the exam room. A nurse was in the room waiting. They were both so sweet and caring. The doctor turned on some light music and brought out some aromatherapy oils (I kid you not!). He told me they were meant to relax me so it wasn’t such a scary experience. The nurse gave me a pillow and some tissues. The doctor rubbed some oils on my pillow. The nurse draped a sheet over my neck so I wouldn’t see what was happening during the biopsy. They allowed my Mom to stay in the room to make me more comfortable.

I laid on my side and was given a local anesthesia. I didn’t feel a thing! The doctor took five samples. I overheard the doctor and nurse talking about “floaters” and “Sinkers”. I asked what they were referring to. The doctor was very upfront with me and told me “floaters were benign and sinkers are most likely malignant”. I had one sinker.  I asked him if he thought t was cancer and he said “yes”. I didn’t cry. I think I knew in my gut that I had cancer, He told me to call my primary doctor and make an appointment no later than three days from my appointment so I could get the results immediately after she received them. I was able to get an appointment the following week within five days from my biopsy. The biopsy lasted about an hour.

My primary doctor (nurse practitioner) confirmed that I had cancer. Wayne went with me to the appointment. She gave me a hug and told me a story about her sister whom had cancer and made a complete recovery. I was encouraged by her story, but had so many questions that she could not answer. She told me most of my questions would be answered by my surgeon and oncologist. I was happy to know the wheels were in motion to curing my cancer and I was anxious to get moving.

Next time, a visit to the surgeon and how things started moving very, very fast! Until next time…

Hysterectomy Recovery {Feeling Pain & Getting a Diagnosis}

This is my experience recovering from hysterectomy surgery. Your experience may differ. I share my story so other women can be informed. I strongly encourage each of you to get a regularly scheduled examination with your doctor. Early detection is key to diagnosis of most women’s diseases.  

What started out as a dull ache on my right side rapidly changed to severe sharp pain whenever I rolled onto my right side. Initially I wasn’t concerned too much because I had experienced abdominal “pain” since the day I started my period at about age 13. I had been diagnosed with endometriosis since I was 17. A tumor was discovered on my right ovary at age 21 and I had subsequent surgery to remove the tumor . Thankfully it was benign. However, after my surgery at 21 I was told I may not be able to have children. My right ovary was not fully functional, but given my age the doctor didn’t want to remove it. After meeting my husband and getting married, we decided to try to conceive even though we were told our chances of getting pregnant were slim. I was blessed to get pregnant and give birth to a beautiful baby girl (who is now a healthy 20 year old!). After her birth I began having symptoms with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and was finally FINALLY diagnosed with PCOS when I was  30. With PCOS came infertility and I was never able to have any more children.

Fast forward to age 46 and I was tired of the pain. My monthly menstrual cycle was increasingly painful and lasted 10 days at a time and often started again after a 10 day “break”.

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I went to see my primary doctor who gladly sent me off to get an ultrasound. (I have been so blessed to have doctors who go the extra mile for me). When I went to my ultrasound appointment I knew from the look on the technician’s face that something was abnormal on the screen. They took many, many photos (I assumed due to the many clicks of her machine) and told me to follow up with my primary physician within three days. I was nervous, but not surprised. I knew something was wrong by how I was feeling.  Sometimes our gut instinct is the most truthful way of knowing something is wrong with our bodies. 

A few days after the ultrasound, I received a call from my doctor’s office requesting I come into the office as soon as possible. My doctor confirmed a tumor was found on my right side next to my right ovary and uterus. I was referred to a gynecologist surgeon to evaluate and find the location of the tumor. I was scheduled for exploratory laparoscopic surgery in May 2016.

Laparoscopic surgery is much easier on the body. According to my doctor:

Exploratory laparoscopy is surgery to look for causes of pain, abnormal growths, bleeding, or disease in your abdomen. During this surgery, small incisions are made in your abdomen. A small scope and tools are inserted through these incisions. A scope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end.

My recovery from the laparoscopic surgery was relatively easy. I had three small incisions in my abdomen with one of them through my belly button. My surgery was scheduled for 6:00am and I was released from the hospital the same day about 2:00pm. The surgery took about an hour and a half. I was able to resume regular activities within about two weeks. The incision through my belly button was the largest wound to recover.

I returned to my doctor’s office for my post-operative check up after two weeks. My doctor determined that my tumor was about the size of a tennis ball. He gave my my options and together we determined that a hysterectomy was the best course of action given my age, pain level and size of the tumor. I have a history of ovarian cancer in my family. This was a big factor for hysterectomy as well.

My second surgery was scheduled for August 5, 2016. I look forward to sharing with you that surgery. Until next time…Step In Faith!

Finding a Lump….

I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma on November 1, 2016. On December 27, 2016 my cancer was upgraded to Stage 3 due to the size of the tumor removed was 8.5 cm and one lymph node was malignant. One in 8 women will find out they have Breast Cancer each year. More than 80% of Breast Cancer diagnoses are Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. According to breastcancer.org :

“Invasive means that the cancer has “invaded” or spread to the surrounding breast tissues. Ductal means that the cancer began in the milk ducts, which are the “pipes” that carry milk from the milk-producing lobules to the nipple. Carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues that cover internal organs — such as breast tissue. All together, “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” refers to cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Over time, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body.”

This is my story….

As I shared in this post HERE, me and my family were travelling across country to move my Mom to California from Indiana. We had decided to treat this trip as a sort of “vacation” and make stops to visit places we would normally not see. One of our stops was in Fort Worth, Texas to visit my stepsister and spend a couple of days sightseeing and eating barbecue! It was after I got out of the shower on the last day of our visit that I noticed a raised area on the top of my breast. There was a small dimpled area, but nothing too unusual otherwise. My breast didn’t hurt so I thought maybe I had just strained myself while packing the moving van. I decided to wait to tell my family until we got to California so they would not worry. I was so so sure it was a fluke thing and my doctor would check it out and my breast wold return to normal in time. I had no family history of breast cancer. In fact, I had been checked for cancer in August when I had my hysterectomy and my tumor was benign. I also had a mammogram at the insistence of my primary physician in April 2016 and all was fine with no abnormalities. I was sure all would be fine.

When we left Texas and drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico I decided to share my concern with my husband because it was weighing heavily on my mind. I wanted his reassurance that I was just imagining the lump. As soon as he felt the lump he was very concerned and we decided to get checked as soon as we arrived home. We arrived home on October 15, 2016 and I was able to get an appointment with my doctor for October 19, 2016. As soon as I told the scheduler I found a lump in my breast, I got an appointment right away.

 

Stay close by as I share my experience with Breast Cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I hope by sharing my story I can help other women with early detection and treatment. 

 

I have breast cancer….

There really is no easy way or right time to say “I have breast cancer”. My doctor confirmed my pathology / biopsy results were positive for breast cancer on Thursday, November 17th. I wanted to keep it a secret for awhile, but as with other life altering situations that have happened in the last year and a half, I decided to share my story to provide strength and encouragement to other women who are going through painful situations. I plan to document my journey through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment so that I can bring awareness to the disease and hopefully provide strength and comfort to other women.

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My journey with breast cancer started less than 6 weeks ago when I discovered a lump in my breast while driving across country moving my mother to California from Indiana. We made a stop in Texas to visit my stepsister. A day I will never forget. I will share my story beginning from that day in my next post. I look forward to hearing your story as well. Until then….

Now you see it…a setback and a comeback

My third surgery was on November 19, 2015. I have been living with eye disease for 8 months now. (In case you missed my previous posts, you can catch up HERE)

At my follow-up appointment in December I had a bit of a setback. Fluid had built up behind me eye and my eye was very inflamed. My doctor could not determine if I had developed a hole in my eye due to the inflammation. He prescribed  an anti-inflammatory and continued with the steroid drops. This meant four rounds of each drop daily. It is inconvenient and the drops sting somewhat, but in the big scheme of life, it is very worth it. I considered this a bit of a setback because I thought once I had my surgery in my left “good” eye, I would be able to jump behind the wheel of my car and resume my life! Not so much…

A small bit of good news was that my doctor (whom I trust completely) told me I was able to wear my contact lenses as long as they didn’t physically bother my eyes. Finally! A gleam of hope for resuming a somewhat normal life! After putting in my lenses I was finally able to view my computer screen and phone and TV better. No driving, but progress is happening!

In January, I received even better news! Although the inflammation had not completely subsided, I am able to tested for a new prescription for contact lenses and eyeglasses. If all goes well, there is a possibility I can start to drive. This is so uplifting to me. I was also cleared to start walking, bicycling and lifting weights. My only restriction is no jarring movement to my head. I am unable to run or bend to pick up heavy weight or sit ups, but I can live with it!

My next appointment is in three weeks. I hope to have made enough progress that I can stop putting in the drops each day.

Thanks for sticking with me everyone! I feel more positive each day!

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