Breast Cancer 101. Tips on Managing Treatment, and Common Side Effects.

 

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Hi. My name is Dawn and I am a breast cancer survivor.  In 2014 I was diagnosed with a double dose of not so great news. Just prior to my 40th birthday, I found two large masses.  In my right breast they found two tumors. I had ER/PR-, HER2+ Grade3, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, along with high grade ductal in-situ.  In my left breast I had ER/PR+, HER2- Grade 2, Invasive Lobular Cancer with extensive lobular in-situ as well. Diagnosed as stage II/III after my biopsies. Well, thank god it was not in any lymph nodes as they had suspected, and my tumors actually were smaller than measured during my initial digital core biopsies. Yes, my tumors were reduced in size by the time my double mastectomy actually occurred just over 5 weeks later.  No chemo at that point, but a huge regular dose of cannabis oil every day.  I actually shocked my surgeon a bit. He said he had never seen such a thing in his experience doing surgeries with breast cancer patients. So, they changed my staging to I on both sides. Great news! God is good. What a long, strange trip it’s been.  If you or someone you love are facing breast cancer my heart and prayers are with you. You can do this! Here are some tips that I recommend for you to make your journey a little less scary and easier along the way.

Cancer and Treatment Basics

Eat well.  Keep yourself healthy. You are getting ready for the fight of your life. Throw the image of you feasting on salads, nuts, fruits and veggies out. Instead, replace that with eating like a cancer queen when you’re up to it, and many other times, forcing yourself to nibble on healthy bits of food and treats that you can actually get down at the time. For me, it was the more bland, the better. Whole grain rice, oatmeal, hummus and pita chips, and simple soups were much easier to tolerate. From the flavor and texture, to being gentle on your tummy. Chemotherapy can make food taste hideous. Yes, even your life long favorite dish can taste like shit instantly.  Favorite casseroles and meals were really tough to stomach at times.  I learned to mix in some Veganase to tone down spicy flavors of many delicous dishes brought over by friends and family.

I was advised by nursing staff and patients to just skip my favorite dishes during treatment. Good advise.  If the nausea or metal flavor get the best of your favorite foods, just nibble on good snacks you can keep down. I couldn’t handle any of my favorite citrus fruits or juices due to the sores and irritation in my mouth, throat and entire digestive system. Pineapple, melons, cooked veggies, yogurt, crackers or puddings were staple go to snacks when I just didn’t have an appetite or couldn’t move. (Let’s face it, some days you can barely make it out of the chair, or to the bathroom, let alone have the energy to chow down or even prepare a big meal.)

I highly recommend juicing.  As much as you and anyone that can assist you can do. We make daily smoothies that are delicious yet very medicinal as well.  Even kid approved.  But the most important thing you can do is drink water.  Drink copious amounts of it.  You want to flush those toxins out of your body.  Keep it bedside and take it with you when you travel as well. You can easily become dehydrated during infusions. If you need some extra electrolytes, grab some organic Gatorade to drink. They didn’t taste horrible during treatment, whereas other similar drinks did.

Exercise. It may not be like pre cancer, but 15-20 minutes of something a day is better than nothing. Stretching and yoga are wonderful. Walk if you are up to it. Just try to do your best to get up and move.

Remember to sleep often, rest well, and take breaks as needed.  Adequate sleep is important for rest and healing. Try not to let yourself start dragging. Even on those days that you feel energized and refreshed, remember to not overdo it. You could be paying for it later. Learn to chill more often.  Naps are now your good friend.

Get your teeth cleaned prior to treatments/infusions. If it needs to be asap, most dental practices will get you in right away knowing your health situation and needs. Brush well and brush often.  Be sure to use a soft bristled brush and brush gently. My gums would bleed daily after I began infusions. They were very tender and swollen as well. Many treatments lead to dry mouth, heavier film and plaque build up, bad taste, and just plain yuck mouth.  Dry mouth alone can increase decay and periodontal disease. Something you really don’t want to deal with during treatment. Falling asleep, feeling ill, and just plain forgetting to brush can lead to trouble. I liked to be safe and keep Q-tips at my table side to clean my teeth a bit even when I wasn’t feeling good enough to get up.

Ask for a script for “MiracleMouthwash” from your dentist or Doctor. It can help with mouth sores, yeast infections, sloughing, and dry mouth. A nice gargle of cool water, baking soda, and a dash of salt can help as well. Do it a few times a day when you can.

Dress comfortably.  Get yourself a cute and cozy night gown, bath robe, or lounge clothes. Try to stick to natural fibers. It will be more comfortable on your skin and breathe better if you are experiencing hot flashes or night sweats.  If you have drains, you want the right PJs. I went out to Goodwill pre surgery and bought some nice two piece sets with button up tops. The button up tops are more convenient when dealing with surgical areas, and the drains are easier to pin-up in inconvenient places with these versus wearing a long night gown.

If you feel feverish, be sure to take your temperature. You are more susceptible to infection in the days after treatment and a fever can send you to the hospital.

Try to avoid large crowds to avoid germs. Wash your hands like you mean it. When you can avoid hand contact on doorknobs, handles, gas pumps, etc. do it.

If you have a cat, delegate the litter box duties to someone else. If you must, try to pick up one of the self cleaning boxes throughout your treatment. Wear gloves and a mask to avoid germs and prevent infections.

Chemo and medications can dry your eyes out. If this is a problem for you, pick up some artificial “Tears” for moisture.  Many times your eyes will seem to water almost uncontrollably. Your tear ducts are overcompensating for the lack of moisture.  That, and many chemotherapies cause your hair and eyelashes to fall out. (Even your finger and toe nails, like mine did.)  The lack of eyelashes makes a huge impact on how much more your eyes water, while being as dry as sandpaper at the same time. Get those rewetting drops. It’s so much more comfortable.  Avoid strong scents, odors, and perfumes. I found them nauseating, comparable to morning sickness and could bother my eyes.

Find a healthy lotion or coconut butter and moisturize often. As mentioned earlier, chemo can be dehydrating. Your skin can get unbearably dry and uncomfortable.  Wear a healthy sun protectant when needed.  Chemo and other meds can increase sensitivity to the sun, cause burns, or hyper-pigmentation even with sunscreen applied. I recommend a nice brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your face. Even three years post chemo I need to stay out of the sun. I have a funky butterfly like shape of dark pigmentation across my forehead that likes to pop out a bit when exposed to direct sunlight. People give it a glance in the summer at times, but I don’t mind. It’s just one more characteristic of my spunky, funky self that I am learning to love again.

Be sure you avoid harsh soaps or lotions during treatment. Wear soft, comfy clothes. Abrasive fabrics can not only irritate the skin but also scratch it.

Feeling the need for some assistance in dealing with life or your ever-changing body? Find a therapist if you are even the least bit interested.  It could be a counselor to help you work through everything cancer throws at you, or it could be a physical therapist, massage therapist, or osteopath to help you through your physical healing.

Get a warrior mode, Wonder Woman attitude. Picture yourself as a badass cancer killing super hero. You can’t win a war with a “poor me” attitude.  Attitude is so important. Let things go. Think positive. Many will be praying for you, and if you’re lucky, even helping in taking care of you during this period in your life.  One thing you can control is your attitude. Choose to be happy. Choose peace and love. What is going to happen, is going to happen. We may not like it, and will have rough days, but you just can’t stay there. Move on, and up. We are blessed even in our darkest periods.  Stay positive. No bad vibes allowed.

Have a certain some one who is always negative, criers, or whining?  You may love them to pieces, but during treatment, you have no time for that! Hang out with positive friends and family.  It’s good for your health and well being.

Ask for help.  There is no better time to ask for help than when you really need it. Many times, I ended up doing too much because of stubbornness. Don’t expect to be able to do your normal routine during treatment and surgeries. Take the assistance of family and friends. You need rest during this trying time. I could tell you about a few of the mini breakdowns I had during my treatment and recovery.  All of it would have been avoided if I were to just ask for help. Do it. Ask for help if you need it.

 Be informed, but not obsessed. Some times, you need to stop researching and let yourself relax. You don’t want to let your quest for knowledge lead to depression and anxiety. Mix it up and read or watch something fun or silly to lighten up the vibe.  Try to let it all go and not worry when things are at their worst. Faith is a powerful thing. Try not to obsess and worry. I like to “give it up to God”.  Faith, love, and music were my number one go to’s in those times where quite honestly, I was alone.

Music was my medicine during the many scans, ultrasounds, and surgeries. Choose your playlist. In your head, on your phone, in your iPad, whatever you can take with you to drown out any bad vibes or juju. Your theme song, your survivor anthem. I loved a few tunes during treatments. Prior to one of my many surgeries, I had a friend, along with the surgical team sing along to a video montage of us during Taylor Swifts “Shake it off.”  “Eye of The Tiger” was a great jam going into surgery a few times as well. That intro though! Staying Alive by the Bee Gees was a favorite during MRI’s. “This Is My Fight Song” was yet another inspiring favorite. Make your playlist back up your warrior mode attitude.

Breathe.  Breathing and trying to relax are essential. Deep breathing can get you through waves of nausea and anxiety. Cancer and chemo are scary.  Let yourself express the fear, disappointment, anger, and worries. Then you pull it together. And breathe. Again, and again. Because you are a badass! So really try to be easier on yourself.  You’ve come a long way and are surviving a huge life experience.  It’s ok to forget things, need a break, or just give yourself a day of rest.

Tips for Chemo That They May Not Share With You in Oncology

First things first. Chemo is poison. It is there to kill cells and shrink tumors if you’re lucky.  I had many issues, including horrible nausea, sickness, and weight loss. This is the information I’ve used myself or learned along the way in my own treatment.

If you are having a chemo or immunotherapy that causes nausea, ask for Emend in your IV. It is a strong anti-nausea med that helped with my treatment quite a bit.  Peppermint oils can help as well. Apply them topically, use in a diffuser, or drink some delicious tea.  Ativan can also help with anxiety and nausea. Ginger snaps/soda can help lessen nausea and upset stomach. Broths and soups can be easier to get down when you don’t feel so hungry, but need some nourishment. Drinking a lot of water is very important. Drink water. All day.

Take the meds you absolutely need. But don’t just take every one of the many anti-nausea/sick meds they give to you.  I did and I had more side effects from the pills to deal with than anything else. Start small. Take a Zofran or an edible infused with cannabis prior to an anticipated time of nausea.  Don’t wait until you feel sick to take an anti-nausea med. It will then be to late to halt the nausea. Zofran and cannabis were lifesavers for me. I would like to point out that my sickest period after infusions was days after the time frame that they had given me. You will figure out how your body will handle the medications and you will need to take note. Planning on feeling sick makes it easier to prepare, to have things done ahead of infusions, and to have meals ready, etc.  I was very sick throughout most of my treatment. Planning is essential.

Luckily cannabis edibles let me bypass the horrible pain of constipation from meds like Compazine. Cannabis oil helped me sleep better, while improving my appetite and reducing nausea. Prior to figuring this out, I had already lost over 12 lbs while taking multiple anti-nausea medications. Some days, cannabis medicines were the only thing that did help me!!

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You can have nausea relief without all of the unbearable cramping and constipation. It was truly a gift.  A HUGE bonus was the wonderful side effects of cannabis oil! Amazingly, it helped with my pre-existing inflammatory arthritis pain and inflammation, migraines, blood pressure, insomnia, and lack of appetite. I am really excited to see what the future holds for cannabis and cancer, along with many other diseases and ailments.

Going through chemo, you may find you swing from horrible constipation to severe diarrhea all in the same day. Whoa. What a treat.  Some OTC remedies help with symptoms. There are also teas that aide in everything from digestion to nausea relief. With my chemo, like most, I had to flush twice after using the toilet. With the seat closed. This is also to prevent any contamination to others in your household during treatment.

During infusions I had to wash my clothes twice before drying. Sometimes even then, I could still smell the chemicals from my clothes. Other people should not handle your laundry if possible, to avoid any contamination. If they do, my oncologist actually recommended wearing gloves.  Use a gentle detergent free of toxic chemicals.

If you have months of infusions ahead of you, ports are great. Although mine was quite uncomfortable at times, it was a lifesaver.  Having one placed is simple and it saves your poor arms and veins from injury and damage.  Be sure to ask your nurse or doctor for an EMLA cream prescription.  You can use it on your port site for a painless poke.  It is a lidocaine cream that you can use a couple of hours prior to infusions. You apply it directly over the port site in a very thick dollop. It absorbs into the skin over time and makes the crunchy puncture of the needle going in painless. Cover with Saran Wrap or an IV adhesive bandage before treatment. Wipe it off right before they scrub your port site. It is SO worth getting.  If you are allergic to lidocaine, there is also a topical spray available for you. Some patients have told me it worked well, and some thought it stung a bit initially.

As far as some of the extras you can try to keep your hair and nails, I personally did not try the cold caps or ice gloves. I did not find enough evidence saying that this was that beneficial with my treatments. More like you win some, lose some odds. I finally shaved and donated what hair I could, and then lost all of my hair.  I have heard since day one to paint my nails to keep them longer. What? Paint if you’d like, but I have seen no proof of this retaining finger or toenails.  There is simply no science or reason that it would do such a thing. Nails can get ugly quick and nail polish can help cover that up and help you feel pretty or normal during chemo. But that’s about the extent of it.  Some nail polishes even have toxic ingredients, so check out yours and make sure it’s not one of them.

Before my weekly snooze during chemo, I liked to chill and watch tv with whoever may have taken me to infusions that week. Usually Gunsmoke and the news with my dad, or soap operas with my mom.  When you go to infusions, take something to listen to, or something to read. My infusion days lasted up to 8-9 hours for about 7 months, and then they went down to about an hour to 2 hours. Get as comfortable as possible during this time.  I am not a soda fan, but if you are, take some ginger ale to your infusion. The ginger can help soothe a queasy tummy. I personally enjoyed an edible prior to infusions to help prevent nausea.  I always took my “chemo” blanket along as well.  It was donated to me by Project Chemo Crochet. Infusions can make you feel very cold.  It was a thoughtful gift that kept me warm for over a year. Even after 2+ washes every week, post chemo infusions, and 3 years post TCH, I still use it.

Everyone does their own thing when it comes to losing their hair.  I chose to let some of my hair fall out. After the long, blonde clumps started coming out, I had it cut, then buzzed, and donated to Wigs for Kids. I donated a generous amount of my locks to a child in need. Good for you if you can do it too. I know that losing the locks are one of the toughest side effects for some patients to deal with during chemo. You will get used to it. Your beauty is not your hair.  Think Legend of Billie Jean, and get your big hoop earrings out and rock your new look when you are feeling up to it!  Hair usually grows back after treatment is completed.  And, man is it easier and faster to take a shower without all of that hair.

Take this time to become an eyebrow diva. Draw those babies on if you want.  Experiment. There are even helpful templates to help you not become an eyebrow monster. I don’t recommend a sharpie, but an eyebrow pencil or marker will work just fine.  As they grow back in, I found that a very light coat of mascara helps make them become more noticeable and makes you feel a little more like you.  Yes, with many chemo treatments, as with my treatment, all of the hair was gone, except some on my arms.  Armpit, legs, pubic area, eyebrows, eyelashes….finger nails, toe nails…..all gone.  My finger and toe nails fell off repeatedly, even after treatment. Don’t freak out if this happens to you. Keep the area clean and eventually the nails will grow back. Many times they may be normal, but they can also come back with a bit of character. Perhaps there are lines, ridges or spots. These too will continue to grow out and get back to close to what they were prior to treatment.  This tends to be common with many chemo meds.

If you lose your hair, get yourself acquainted with scarves, caps, wraps, hats, and makeshift head wraps. I preferred using these to the wig I had gotten from the American Cancer Society. (Thank you very much!) Wigs can be beautiful, but for me it was very hot, and itchy.  It wasn’t something I wanted to wear all of the time. I personally felt more comfortable being bald and beautiful.  If you would like a wig, ask your doctor for a prescription for a “cranial prosthetic.” Not a wig. This way, most insurances will cover the cost. Wigs can be gorgeous. Get a little adventurous and try something different with your hair. There are also many cute caps and hats available.  I figured I may as well rock the look, even if I wasn’t feeling like a rock star. You can too.

All of my nurses were amazing.  But, many are not educated enough about supplements, integrative or homeopathic remedies, cannabis oil,  or healthy nutrition in general. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket when questioning oncology. Like any other medical profession, they are practicing.  They all have had different teachers and may have learned different routes of administering treatment. Many are obviously well versed with medications and chemotherapeutic agents because that is what they were taught. Remember that patients can be teachers as well. Share what works for you in hopes of making treatment easier on others. I recommend having a support person along with you if possible,  not just for support, but for recall of the days events.

Many blogs I read would sing the praises of chemo. I still feel like it is not for everyone. It may or may have not been a good choice for me. I guess I will really never know.

Many blogs also say to take every pill that is thrown at you. I beg to differ. I promote being a well informed patient.  Choose the path that feels right to you.  Be your own advocate. Use gathered information as a tool and research for yourself.

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Surviving and Thriving After Cancer

Let your food be your medicine.  Avoid sugar, processed foods, inflammatory foods, GMO foods, and gluten (if necessary).  “Eat what you want! You only live once!” I heard this over and over like folks thought they were doing me a favor.  I don’t advise this at all.  Everything in moderation. What we put into our bodies makes a huge impact on how we heal, recover, and progress into a new healthy us.  I try to keep my body at a good alkalinity level. I actually check it periododically with PhStrips. Cancer thrives in an acidic envoronment, so you want to lean words an alkaline diet. I honestly believe cancer feeds on sugar. Ever had a PET scan?  Avoid sugar as much as possible.

I had a water system installed a few years ago and use alkaline water daily in my tea. My favorite medicinal teas are Essiac Tea, Ojibwa Tea, dandelion detox tea, ginger, peppermint, and valerian.  Medicinal smoothies and quality supplements are essential in my cancer fighting protocol.  My smoothie arsenal includes organic green powders, chlorella, spirulina, vitamin C powders (acerola cherry extract), chia seed,  Crimini mushrooms, spinach, kale, carrots, cherry concentrate, blueberry concentrate, cauliflower, broccoli, almonds, apricot kernels, flax seed, goji berries, celery, turmeric, garlic, beets, ginger, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, coconut butter, vanilla, and some organic chocolate for good flavor.

My personal supplements at the time are Vitamin C, CoQ10, Magnesium, B6, D3/K2, women’s multivitamin 50+, Super omega-3, Potassium Citrate, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Turmeric, Beet Root, chelated Zinc, Devil’s Claw, broken cell wall chlorella tablets, hemp oil, Chaga mushroom extract, concentrated mineral drops, Colloidal Nascent Iodine drops, probiotics, Black Cohosh, and Melatonin. I love to put on Frankincense and Myrrh like it’s my new favorite perfume. I figure if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

As you may know, just having cancer, as well as many chemotherapies, depleat our body of so many vitamins and minerals. I take my supplements out of necessity. Being knowledgeable to what kind of supplements and their bioavailability makes a big difference in absorption of your supplements. Please do your research for best results.  Make sure they are organic or at least GMO free. Many breast cancer patients with active Mets seem to be depleted of many nutrients and minerals. To help prevent mets, keep track of your Iodine, D3/K2, B vitamins, vitamin C, and Magnesium levels with your doctor.

Keep a journal, planner, or calendar. Write down or log whatever your feeling, symptoms, treatment, medications, visitors, helpers, and donations. Start a folder of post appointment paperwork. Use it for whatever you need. Keep your treatment plan, health care choices, and medications on file. Chemo brain can be challenging, a diagnosis can be overwhelming in itself, and a journal can be a great reference. I found that keeping a log of my treatments, surgeries, medications, and specialists to be very helpful. Not only for my reference, but I also print out my health history for my doctors. This saves time filling out forms, which can be a life saver when dealing with cognitive issues and inflammatory arthritis.

Find support. There are many support groups out there. Find one that is a good match for you. I had a rough time with this in the beginning. I was feeling worse after the meetings and not better because I really didn’t find someone I could relate to. I have since realized I need to go when I am emotionally ready to go, and need to go to the meetings that are a good fit for me and my schedule. Once you find a good match, the support can be a life-saver. You can find support groups face to face through many hospitals and oncology, or you can choose to go online and join one or many different support groups. It really helps you to not feel so alone during your journey and post cancer.  Share…..or don’t share. If you feel like it, share away.  It can be very therapeutic.  If you don’t feel like sharing, don’t.  Not everyone has the right to know your medical happenings. Telling someone thank you, but you don’t feel like discussing your health is ok.

Learn to accept help.  Grocery shopping, errands, keeping the kids entertained, dinners and casseroles made by church groups, friends and family, or house cleaning.  Rides to doctor appointments and infusions, etc.  If they ask what they can do for you, give them a practical answer, and let them help. Filling bird feeders, raking leaves, making a meal, even emptying the garbage. Folks want to help during this rough patch, so let them.  Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Don’t be afraid to say no.  You may be tired, or just not feel well.  You will learn that you only have so much energy and need to choose where and how it is spent. People will understand. If they don’t, they are not someone you need to invest your energy into.

Don’t hold back. If you feel like someone is being insensitive about your cancer, speak up if you feel like it. This is your journey, if they say something completely stupid and selfish, you can let them know. There will be times you may feel like tearing someone’s head plumb off, but I don’t recommend this.

If you need to get away from everyone and everything, go ahead and lock the doors, draw the curtains closed, clothespin them together, and get your alone time. Nap time, quite time, chill time, meditation time, reading time, Netflix binge, tea and a biscuit, whatever you may need your “you” time for. Place a sign on your door to let others know you don’t want to be disturbed. Turn off your ringer on your phone for a few.

Don’t let yourself get fixated on numbers, timelines, years and statistics. It can make you obsess or even paralyze you with fear, when you should be out living. I am living proof that numbers and percentages don’t rule your life unless you let them. Use those numbers to celebrate milestones and don’t dwell on the what if.  Please, don’t compare your cancer to every one else’s. It’s cool to be inquisitive and care, but don’t fixate on it. Everyone, and every cancer scenario is different. Respect each and every journey you have shared with you by others. After all, you haven’t walked in their cancer shoes, have you? Someone took it upon themselves to share with you, so remember to be respectful of the choices they’ve made, as they are trying to survive just like you.

Make sure that you and your oncology team are on the same page. I researched and interviewed in preparation of my treatment. I was only going to have who I thought were the best of the best, since after all, it is my life and my body they are treating. The time and energy are well worth the outcome.  If you decide you aren’t pleased with your oncologist or specialist, do more research on other possible options for you and fire them. Yes, I said fire them.  Do you seriously want someone you don’t agree with, or are uncomfortable with, treating you and your cancer just because they have oncology on their name badge?  No.  So if this is the case, you get your records, files, and images collected and then you let them go. If they are going to mess up someone’s life, I can tell you it won’t willingly be mine. Some folks have good intentions, but may have poor organizational skills, sleeping habits, or are over worked.  You are in charge. Never forget that. If you need a break while going over test results, need some fresh air, or just need more time to process and make decisions during this marathon called cancer, tell them. You want a few more days to figure something out, take them.  You want a support person there with you, bring them along. Sometimes the amount of crazy information they throw at you can seem surreal.  Don’t be afraid to slow them the hell down.  This may be their job, but it’s your life.

Cry, yell, scream, and vent if you need to.  You’re going to have a rough road and a possibly long recovery. Just don’t stay down for too long.

Laugh and laugh some more. Find your funny.   It could be watching Ellen, stand up comedians, or kitty cat videos. Whatever you can find. Have a dance party in your kitchen. I loved dancing with my bald self.  It is so much better than being sad. Laughter really is the best medicine. Have fun. Don’t forget to check out of cancerland and into laughterland with someone you love. It is a well deserved trip, and you deserve a break, even if it is in your own living room.  Do things that make you happy.  Sitting by the river, short walks when you are up for it, hanging out with your favorite pet, these things all can take you to your happy place.  Remember to make the time to relax and decompress.  Surround yourself with beauty and love. I often went to the river during treatment to soak up the sounds and beauty of nature. Go to a nice park or an area with a bench just to chill. Check out local museums or galleries on a good day.

Live in the now as much as possible.  Celebrate how far you have come and all you have conquered.  I know it can be very hard to get over losing the old you. The you that may have ruled the office, volleyball court, and PTA. The you with your old hair and previous fitness routine.  Well, my new hair is by far more amazing than my “old hair.” It went from wavy, long blonde hair with a few grays here and there, to very curly, brown hair with not one gray hair to be found. Hard to believe with all of that stress.  Hahaha.  I’m pretty sure I was meant to slow down from by super busy previous lifestyle. The reasons I am blessed post cancer are countless. I believe I am more spiritual, family oriented, loving, appreciative, and involved with my family now.  Let’s not forget more opinionated, blunt, and greedy with my time. That too, can come with the cancer experience.  I am slowly learning to really love this new, still morphing, me.  I’m still not there yet.  We are amazing warriors and we need to always remember this.  Be kind to yourself. You can do this! You have come this far my friend. Let the warrior in you shine, but also take the time you need to heal yourself.

Don’t be afraid to pull the “cancer card”. Cancer can stink, but many others have made it so your journey is easier. Take full advantage. It may be support meetings, yoga, makeovers, photo shoots, etc. If you are feeling up to it…..just do it.  For example; some day you may be at an amusement park with your family and feel beyond exhausted. Why miss out or feel like a bump on a log? See if a wheelchair is available. Ask for a quick pass.

I did the “Look Good, Feel Better” program through Sparrow hospital and had a wonderful experience. Hair, makeup, a fun photo shoot, and beautiful portraits to capture this not to beautiful time in your life. An amazing day.  They can give you helpful tips on hair or lack of, makeup and even clothes. Turn that old t-shirt into a hair wrap. Yup. A cool hair wrap.  You Tube and Pinterest both have awesome tutorials on pulling off your own easy and stylish head wraps. Check them out. These ladies have knowledge to share with you. Soak it up.

Keep important numbers handy for you and others helping you.  Including  your doctors, oncology nurses, pharmacy, close family and friends, and emergency numbers.

If you need support, reach out.  You are not alone on this journey.  If you need to talk, call.  Many seem to be unsure how to tread with a loved one going through cancer. Reach out and be heard. Get it off of your back. They may be ecstatic to hear your voice on the other end of the line.
We all choose different paths with our treatment. I respect all choices, although I may not agree with them all. I believe we all learn along the way.  I wish you all warrior strength, and pray for the best possible outcome in your battle. It may not be easy, but you’ve got this.

I hope this information can be helpful to you or a loved one going through cancer and treatment. Let my journey make yours an easier one.

Pictured below are pictures of myself pre-cancer, during active cancer, and my now curly brunette hair, post cancer picture. It’s a hell of a ride, but it is so worth the fight.  High five to my survivor sisters and brothers.
Do you have any other helpful tips to help others in their journey? Please feel free to add your info in the comments.

This article is dedicated to my late grandmother and great grandmother, who were pioneers in breast cancer. God bless all of those who have fought the good fight.

God speed brothers and sisters!

XOXO

Dawn

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  1. Wow! Thank you. That was just what I needed to hear. I was diagnosed in Sept 2017 so I’m just getting started on this journey. But your post was awesome. I’ve been keeping a positive attitude and my family and I try to keep smiling. I’ll get thru it and have some great new boobs when I’m done 😂. Thanks again.

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  2. What an informative and helpful post for someone starting on this journey. I was dx in september with stage 3 IDC and then in October with stage 3 lung cancer. Completely unrelated primary cancers. I have been doing holistic these past few months and am on the precipice of conventional as my results are not favorable. I wonder as you seem knowledgeable about this…did you take any supplements while on chemo? I hate to give up my supplements but my oncologist said only vitamin d is allowed. It’s hard to find info on this and my ND is so anti conventional that he won’t even discuss the option. Anyway thanks again I am saving this port for rereading!

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    • So glad you found it informative! Yes, I did take supplements throughout Chemo. Not as many as I do presently, but I did continue to take a women’s multivitamin, D3, and Magnesium during my infusions. Most everything else that I still take today was added around the middle of my Herceptin infusions. This is when My doctors and I realized how depleted my body was of different nutrients due to the chemotherapy and took it up a notch. I was never told to avoid my supplements during infusions. It can make it very confusing! I figured if my body was deficient, I really needed to get the right diet staples and supplements to remain in better health. I agree, it is very hard to find information on this topic.
      Sending you prayers for the best with your health and treatment warrior. 💪🎗💗

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