Chemo Brain

Warning: Blogger suffers from chemo brain-The struggle is real, y'all!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Minor Bump in the Road

Hey, Y'all!

Just a quick post today to share (whine) a bit about the latest bump in the road on my journey to healing.

As I have mentioned before, my radiation protocol was set up for treatments 5 days a week with a total of 33 treatments.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had a lot of redness in the treatment areas and have been using a prescription steroid cream as well as my CereVe lotion. Last week in addition to the redness, I also developed blisters-some of them pretty large and painful. I can't say that this was all totally unexpected because I was warned that some "mild" skin irritations might occur. I also have seen pictures on the internet (YES, I went THERE!) of some pretty scary skin reactions!

Today when I went in for my treatment the nurse said that she wanted the doctor to look at my chest before beginning because she wasn't comfortable with proceeding after seeing how much worse it looked today than it did yesterday.

Well, the good news is that I now have a week off from radiation treatments in order to give the burns and blisters a bit of healing time before continuing on. The bad news is that now my end of radiation date has been moved out a week!

You can see some of the redness in the photo below, but the blisters are lower on my chest, and the worst of the burns are underneath my arm where the lymph nodes were removed.


Even though I'm quite impatient and was looking forward to being done with all of the treatments the end of June and to having the month of July to recover from all of the treatments, I know my doctor made the right decision. I also know that this isn't a roadblock to my recovery-it's only a minor bump in the road!

If you are a praying person-I would appreciate some prayers for healing and for PATIENCE!

💗Pam

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Global Running Day-What If

GLOBAL RUNNING DAY 2017
Can I just tell you how very, ecstatically happy I am that I was able to run today on Global Running Day??!!



As you may know-I have been unable to run since I first started with breast cancer treatments back in October. During chemo treatments, I was so sick, and had such extremely low blood counts that I was unable to even walk past my mailbox most of the time! Then came surgery which obviously put me out of commission for a few more weeks.

As soon as I started to feel well enough to get out and start walking again, I began radiation treatments. In the beginning, I was hesitant to even get in the habit of walking regularly-mainly because of the things I had read about radiation causing extreme fatigue for many people.

Although I was feeling pretty good at that time-what if I got into walking/jogging and then the fatigue set in and I could no longer get out the door on a daily basis for my exercise? What if I was starting to feel REALLY strong and THEN had to stop for possibly weeks? Was it worth it to start now?

After having those negative thoughts and all of the "what ifs," I began to think, "Yes, those things are a real possibility, and yet--what if those things DON'T happen? What if I don't have those nasty side-effects?"

What if I missed out on a lot of time walking or jogging through the neighborhoods for absolutely no reason? What if I missed smelling the amazing honeysuckle or the magnolia blossoms?? Those are the "what ifs" that I decided to focus on and I am so glad I did!

Today was radiation treatment # 16, and I RAN first thing this morning! It was a beautiful, unusually cool morning for a June day in Georgia-absolutely perfect weather!

When I first started out this morning, I had no idea whether I would be walking, jogging, or both-I just knew I was heading out that door!


I started out walking pretty slowly because I was already feeling a bit sluggish but I continued on, and I soon began to feel more energetic! I was feeling pretty good, although my legs felt quite shaky. In fact, my whole body was feeling a bit shaky! I started singing to myself, "My hands are shaky, and my knees are weak!" channeling a bit of Elvis with his classic- All Shook Up! I also began throwing in some very slow jogging after about a quarter mile! Then I started to wonder if I could handle some running?! I kept going back and forth with myself about the possibility and then finally (not to sound too much like a Nike commercial!) I said, "Oh, what the heck-Pam, JUST. DO. IT!!".......

AND I DID!! I only ran for a few minutes, but it was incredible! I haven't felt so strong in awhile! And I mean EMOTIONALLY STRONG!! I ended up doing 1.4 miles, which isn't a lot, but it certainly meant a lot to me!!

What if I feel like running again tomorrow?????? What if I start thinking about my first post cancer treatment race???????

Happy Global Running Day, Y'all!
Pam

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 5th and Duct Tape Nightmares??!!

June 5th already?? I can't believe it!

The month of May flew by for me, and my radiation treatments seem to be going pretty quickly also!! Today was treatment #14! Only 19 more to go!

Today was what I fondly refer to as "duct tape day" at the radiation center! Every other day something called a Bolus ( a flat piece of rubber-like material) is placed on my chest for part of my treatment. The use of the Bolus increases the radiation dose to my skin and the tissues below it. The technicians use tape to hold the Bolus in place during the treatments, and it looks a LOT like duct tape! LOL!

Let me say right here that I am very claustrophobic and I also have some issues with being held down in any way. It might seem a bit strange, but anything that confines my movement at all gives me the same claustrophobic feeling that I get when confined to small spaces.

Yes, I have issues! We won't even talk about the time I broke my foot and 2 hours into having a cast on that foot, I had to have them CUT IT OFF (the cast-not the foot!) and put me in a removable walking boot cast because I was FREAKING OUT!

It was such a pretty pink cast!


SOO--back to the Bolus/duct tape story-
Last week on one of my "duct tape days," a new technician (new to me) put the tape on me, and she put it on all the way across my chest and taped me to the table! On previous "duct tape days," the tape was applied to the middle of my chest directly onto my skin and was not confining. On this particular day though, the tape felt a little tight right away, but I thought it would be okay for just a short period.....and yet, it wasn't!! OMG, the longer I lay there, the tighter the tape seemed to get, and of course that made me breathe harder, which made the tape feel even more uncomfortable! I tried every breathing technique that has ever worked to calm me down when I have been anxious, but nothing worked! Finally, I asked the tech to PLEASE-QUICKLY come and loosen my restraints!! I was going into a full-fledged anxiety attack!

It wasn't as bad as depicted below, but it sure felt like it at the time! I can laugh about it now, but I was really freaking out! I apologized to the technician, but she kept insisting that it was okay and that I was NOT the first patient to do that! She also assured me that for future treatments I would NOT be taped to the table!! Maybe I wasn't the first to have a meltdown on the table, but I wonder if I'm the first one to have nightmares about duct tape afterward????





Each Monday after my radiation treatment, I see my radiation oncologist, and he was quite pleased today. He said that my skin seems to be handling the treatments really well. I'm a little red on my chest, but not too bad at all!

I am so happy that this phase of my treatment is going by so quickly! I am also thankful that at least for right now, the side effects aren't too bad! I am just praying that it will continue to be this way!

Oh, just one more thing-Today I started a new medication called Femara, which I will have to take for the next 5 to 10 years. I will talk a little about that in another post.

Do you have any phobias? Please share so that I don't feel quite so alone with my issues!!

Pam


Monday, May 22, 2017

I Feel So Radiant.....


First Week of Radiation


Last Tuesday, I went for the first of my 33 radiation treatments. I thought that for my first treatment, I should wear something colorful-something fun, so I wore my tie-dyed bandanna that I purchased a while back for the whopping price of $1!!

Am I looking especially RADIANT?


I was a bit anxious when I went into the treatment room. The idea of laying very still while flat on my back with my arms up over my head for an undetermined amount of time made me nervous. As I was laying there, I started to feel pretty anxious. The machine, the lights and other various unfamiliar things (none of which actually caused me any pain) began to feel a bit overwhelming. I started to feel my heart race just a little bit. NOT GOOD, since I had to lie very still! WHAT TO DO??

I started telling myself that the lights and beams were not scary, that they were healing. I also tried to concentrate on my breathing. I don't usually have much success with things like breathing techniques, and imagery in calming myself down, but this worked!

After I managed to stop stressing so much, it really wasn't bad at all! The worst part was that the table was uncomfortable. I had to keep my head turned to the left for the set-up and treatment, and this was more than a little uncomfortable for my head and neck. Overall though-not bad!

I am hoping and praying that the side effects from radiation will be minimal. I was told that some of these side-effects may occur during treatment. Others may show up months or possibly YEARS after treatment ends.

SKIN

Not surprisingly, skin problems are pretty common while undergoing radiation therapy. The skin in the treatment area can become red, irritated, and sometimes swollen, looking as if it is blistered or sunburned. Further into treatment, the skin can become flaky, dry, or itchy, and often starts to peel.

Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with the skin issues. Some suggestions are-

Wear loose clothing made from soft, smooth fabrics.

Never put heat or cold on the treated area. No heating pads or ice packs.

Always keep the treated area protected from the sun.

Be gentle. Never scratch, scrub or rub the treated area.

Always check with your cancer care team before using any creams, lotions, powders, ointments, etc. on the affected area.

FATIGUE

Many people start to feel very fatigued a few weeks into their radiation treatments.

The fatigue caused by cancer and radiation is quite different from normal fatigue. This fatigue is much worse, and it may not go away with rest.

I have received a lot of advice on managing fatigue, such as-treating sleep problems, getting more exercise when possible, reducing stress (ha-ha!) and eating a well-balanced diet. I will get back to you on what works for me, when and if this nasty fatigue shows up!

LYMPHEDEMA

Lymphedema is a condition in which fluid develops in the arm, hand, chest or even back, causing swelling.

Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, part of the immune and circulatory systems. Women who have axillary nodes removed, and/or radiation to the lymph nodes area of the underarm may develop this condition.

Lymphedema can be treated, but not cured.

Lymphedema is more likely to occur in women who are overweight.

There are some other possible side-effects, but since they are much less likely to occur, I won't go into them right now.

Today when I went for my treatment (5 down-28 to go!), I wasn't stressed, and it seemed to be over very quickly! That fear of the unknown can be so unnecessarily stressful!

After talking to a lovely woman at the center who is almost done with her treatments and who seemed to feel very ENERGETIC-I am feeling VERY confident that I too can get through this with a smile on my face!

Peace, Y'all!
Pam

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Moving Forward in May

Hey, Y'all-it's May!?!

I feel that I have so much to share today, but I promise I will try to keep it short!

MOVING FORWARD-

Last Monday-April 24th, I saw my surgeon, and he made me VERY happy by removing my remaining drainage tube! He said everything is looking good, but he wants me to go to Lymphodema therapy to hopefully stave off some of the almost inevitable swelling that will occur, due to the removal of 11 lymph nodes and the upcoming radiology-both of which are significant factors in the occurrence of lymphedema.

On Tuesday-April 25th, I saw my Oncologist for the first time since having my mastectomy. He was very pleased with everything he saw and cleared me for radiation treatments. He also said I could have my port removed! I'm not overly excited about the prospects of having radiation, but if I HAVE to have it-then let's do it NOW!

I went in for surgery to remove my port on Tuesday-May 2nd. The hardest part of this procedure for me was that I had to be at the hospital at 9:30 am, however, they did not take me into surgery until noon. After having no food or drink since midnight, I was starting to get a bit of caffeine withdrawal! At the end of the day- I survived the lack of caffeine as well as the surgery, and I am so happy to have that thing out of my chest!

Oh, and in other IMPORTANT news---I HAVE EYELASHES!! Not long, luscious lashes, but LASHES nonetheless!! It didn't bother me when I first lost my lashes-it was just another part of the process. But now that I'm done with chemo and have had my mastectomy, I have to say that I'm excited about the lashes! NOW, if my eyebrows and hair would just grow a little faster, that would be great!!

Next up in the journey to kicking this cancer's butt--radiation begins Monday, May 15th.

I have to say that I am getting really anxious to get done with radiation and onto new adventures in life!


Blessings!
Pam

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Post Mastectomy Healing




It has now been a week and a half since my breast surgery-A unilateral modified radical mastectomy.

I am so thankful that the surgery went well!


I didn't have reconstruction surgery because I will have radiation treatments next, probably starting in a week or so. After radiation, I will start preparing for reconstruction.

I saw my surgeon for a follow-up, and he said everything looks good. He removed one of my drainage tubes, but the other will remain until probably next Monday.  It's nice only having one of these things to deal with, but I am ready to be rid of them completely!


JP Drainage Tubes

As my healing continues, I keep reminding myself how truly blessed I am. I won't lie, it has been difficult at times, both physically and mentally, but I have excellent doctors, an amazing family (including my nurse/hubby Ray who doesn't gag while taking care of my drainage tubes for me!), along with some truly fantastic friends and supporters.

Over the next week or so, I will share more detailed information on my surgery and recovery for those who have asked for more details. I am still having a bit of difficulty typing on the computer for any length of time due to the soreness where the lymph nodes were removed under my right arm.

I  tend to be very slow with putting my thoughts in writing under the best of circumstances these days, so for now, I will just say that the healing continues and I am one step closer to being cancer-free!

Pam


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Let's Remember to BREATHE!

Hey, Y'all!

I have really been neglecting my blog lately, and the only excuse I have is that sometimes "crap" just gets in the way! I'm really hoping to make blogging a significant priority in my life over the coming weeks! In order to do this, I will need to put up a bigger fight against some of the "crap" that prevents me from focusing on my blog and other things that are important to me.

A huge part of the "crap" that I am referring to is emotional stuff-stress, anxiety, and worry. These things can be physically exhausting as well as mentally crippling. I spend so much time worrying about EVERYTHING that I sometimes forget to just BREATHE!

It's pretty well documented that stress, worry, and anxiety can fuel cancer, age us prematurely, weaken our immune system, and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It seems there is always SOMETHING to worry about or stress over, and if we let them, theses things can consume our lives! They can rob us of our happiness, our faith, and our peace.

I have been so stressed over some insurance issues the past couple of weeks, that I was starting to feel it physically-NOT what someone needs when they are already fighting cancer.

I really have been trying some new (for me) methods of stress relief, such as being mindful of my breathing (weird that I have to remind myself to breathe?), taking short naps when needed, and even some meditation. I REALLY AM TRYING! Stress relief is just ANOTHER reason I miss running!

As I work on finding new ways to worry less and breathe more, I will try to remember these three things-

1. Constantly reliving the past can cause depression. 
2. Obsessing over the future causes anxiety. 
3. Only in living in the present moment can one find peace.

Peace? Yes, please!



Here are a couple of important (to me!) things that I have neglected to share with you all-

MY LAST CHEMO TREATMENT

I had my first chemo on October 21, 2016, and Monday, March 13, 2017, I received my last treatment! As excited as I am that the chemo is done and that it did its job, I am still a little nervous about the next step in my journey on the yellow brick road to being cancer-free!

Ringing the bell that signifies the last chemo treatment!

My favorite nurse, Becky presenting me with my Purple Heart Award!

Hubby Ray is happy I am done with chemo also!


ONTO THE NEXT PHASE OF MY JOURNEY

My surgery (Modified Radical Mastectomy) is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8 am! Am I nervous? You bet! I am also anxious to get this part of my journey out of the way so that I am one step closer to being cancer-free!

I went for my pre-op yesterday, so now I just have to wait, pack a bag for the hospital, find a new book to read that will keep me busy afterward, clean the house a bit, try not to stress and of course-PRAY!

See y'all after my surgery! Let's all remember to BREATHE!!

Peace, Y'all-
Pam