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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


The holidays just make me happy. I love this time of the year with all of the decorations, the parties, the presents and the food! Christmas was extra special this year as my family once again gathered together to pray and recognize what we were so grateful for. Whew, it has been one hell of a year for us. I came home to Charlotte the day before Christmas Eve and it's been really nice to get away from freezing cold NYC. We were pretty relaxed on Christmas day this year, it rained almost all day, so my parents, my brother and our little dog Missy stayed in and lounged around, doing nothing. Love those days! I also had a chance to catch up with friends from high school and college, making my rounds around town.


I'm home for a week and a half which is the longest I've been home since college, so I'm soaking up everything. Ross came to Charlotte yesterday after spending Christmas in Chicago with his family and today we had our first wedding venue site visits! Ross laughed because I told him I was anxious about it, since starting to look at venues means that the process is really starting and my stress level might be rising. I'm excited and overwhelmed at the same time. It's a lot to think about but thank goodness we have a lot of time to plan. In the meantime I've been showing off my ring to everyone in Charlotte so that's always fun.


When I get back to New York on Tuesday, I start my last cycle (part 1 of number 6)!! I absolutely cannot wait to get this over with. I had to switch the arm I was getting chemo in because the veins in my left arm started to tire out and the veins were leaving brown stain marks on my arms. So I started getting the drugs put into my right arm but now both arms throb occasionally so I think my body is as ready as my brain to hurry up and finish. I can't believe a month from now I will be done, what an amazing feeling that will be!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Smells are a funny thing

I swear I smell the hospital sometimes. I smell the antibacterial gels, the rubber gloves, the needles and the medicine and it makes me feel sick--even when I haven't just had chemo! I've stopped taking my anti-nausea medication because the smell and taste of it (and sometimes just the thought of it) make me feel nauseous...oh the irony! It would be funny if it didn't make me feel like I was going to throw up. I was never a fan of hospitals before and I am certainly not a fan now. Sometimes it's hard just to put one foot in front of the other to walk to the hospital for a treatment or test because I dread the smells inside that place.

I've had to stop using Purell at the airport or my office because just a whiff and I get flashbacks. So I've resorted to washing my hands 10 million times a day, which isn't bad, it's just not that convenient. I think I dread chemo mostly because of the smells, the process itself isn't that bad once you get used to it, but that hospital smell gets stuck to you and you can't get it off! I never know what will trigger it, but every once in a while in my house, at work, on the street, I smell something that turns my stomach and reminds me of my current situation.

I cannot wait to be done. 2 more treatments, 2 more treatments. It's like a mantra I have to repeat to myself to get to the end--kinda like when I'm working out and I have to tell myself just 10 more minutes to go. It's been a looonnngggg 5 months (wow 5 months??) and even though I'm close to the end, it's harder now than ever before. I feel emotionally beaten down from the process and it ain't over! I'm hoping my spirits will be lifted after I'm finished with chemo and I just have to focus on rebuilding myself. I'm going home to Charlotte for Christmas in a few days and that should help as well, because I like to pretend that things are as they used to be and being back in Charlotte will definitely let me do that...well until I see people who haven't seen me since "the news". I'm not looking forward to that because I think it will bring back all the sad crazy feelings I had when I was first diagnosed. I know that my parents' friends and close acquaintances will want to see me, but I think it will be hard to sort of re-live the whole thing again. It's probably not the most rational or sane thing to do, but sometimes I'd rather just pretend I'm fine and never went through this. Unfortunately it doesn't really work that way and I know I did go through this and things aren't the same as they used to be. Plus, I can't exactly back away from someone who just wants to ask how I'm doing--that would be a little weird. So I must be an adult and face the music.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chemo Hair

Chemo hair is different from regular hair; it's softer, weaker, and makes me sad when I see it in my hand instead of on my head. When I started this journey, keeping my hair was the 2nd priority, right there after beating this disease. I figured I didn't care if I had to throw up all day as long as I could still have my hair and thus not have the "look" of cancer. I'll admit it, it was very important to me. I was lucky enough to not throw up all day (I've actually only thrown up 3 times so far...knock on wood!) and I have kept most of my hair.

However, about a month ago I really started to notice a difference in the thickness of it. It's starting to look pretty thin to me, my ponytail feels like a joke when I put it up to go to the gym because it's so thin. The length is the same as before, in fact I think it's grown a little bit which is odd, but it's much thinner. Yet every time I feel sorry for myself, I have to thank God that I still have some hair and haven't had to wear my wig....yes it's beautiful...but I reallyyyyy don't want to wear it. I think of all the other people fighting cancer and having to face baldness and I really have to recognize my blessings. It's a constant struggle though because one second I realize how lucky I am and the next second I'm complaining about how thin it is. My friends and coworkers swear they can't tell the difference, but I have a feeling they're lying to me...it's ok, I probably would as well...but I'm dying to know what they really think. You can't really tell in pictures but in person I think it's obvious, especially when you see my lovely little bald spot on the left side of my head. I'm actually more ok with the bald spot than the thinness, because I think the bald spot will go away pretty quickly after I stop treatment but I'm a little unsure about how my hair will look as new hair grows in. I guess volume-boosting products will be my new best friend--thank goodness I work for a women's magazine!

Luckily I had already decided (a few years ago in fact before I was engaged...lol) that I would wear my hair in a sleek chignon for my wedding with a few pieces of extensions for fullness, so I'm not too worried about my hair for the big day, plus hopefully my hair should be back to normal by then. Chemo hair is weird though because it attaches itself everywhere! It usually doesn't fall out unless I brush my hair or run my fingers through it, so I try and limit that. But when I do brush my hair, it clings to my clothes and my skin. Even when I think I've gotten every last piece off, there's always one hair hanging on to my finger or my elbow...it's like it knows it's not supposed to leave my head and is trying to hang on to me :(

My hair and my eyebrows are where I've noticed the biggest change; I still have to shave my legs and there's still plenty of hair on my arms (yuck!). Actually, my eyebrows are the sliver lining to this dark cloud. I used to pluck my eyebrows every other day and get them professionally done every 2 weeks. Since I started chemo, I've only gotten them professionally done twice in 4 months...the hair underneath the eyebrow just doesn't seem to grow back which means I have a permanent "done" eyebrow...yea me!

I'm counting down the days until I'm done with chemo (Jan 18th!) so I can focus on growing back some hair instead of losing it, but it will be a while till the drugs are out of my system, so for now I do my daily routine to hold on to as much of it as possible.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Treading lightly


Although I was obviously thrilled to hear the news that my lymph nodes had returned to a more "normal" size and the PET scan couldn't detect any metabolic activity in them anymore, I still don't feel as happy as I thought I would at this point. I think part of it is due to the fact that I still have to continue with chemo treatments (3 more at this point) to "mop up" any remaining cancer cells that may have gone undetected by the PET scan. My doctor determined that I had some patches on my lungs possibly due to the Bleomycin drug (part of my ABVD treatment), so he took it out of my treatment. Bleomycin actually also causes these strange lines that look like cat scratches all over your skin, so now that I'm not on it anymore, I'm looking forward to those going away--vain I know! I had to take a pulmonary function test to make sure that my lungs are ok...basically you do a serious of breathing exercises into a tube and it assesses your lung function...it makes you feel like you've been working out for hours! But everything turned out fine and my lungs were ok, so that was a relief.


Even though I know the chemo is working, it still makes me sad to still have to go back to the hospital and continue to be poked and prodded. I told the nurse the other day that I was tired of seeing her face! That tells you how over this I am. This whole experience can feel so lonely since people can empathize but no one knows exactly how I feel inside everyday and every night. Thankfully I haven't had extreme side effects, but I think that also makes people forget that I am going through this horrible ordeal and its on my mind 24/7. I've found that when I told people the good news, they would say things like, "wow that was quick" or "great, you're all cured now!" and oh how I wish that was true. I feel like I have tread lightly and not get too excited yet because my journey really is far from over...I have to finish up chemo and then continue to have PET scans every month and then every few months to keep track of my health. I still have a while before the big "R"--Remission term is used. It's kinda depressing to think about, for the rest of my life I'll have to check in and make sure that nothing fishy is going on in my lymphatic system. My medical history and life as I know it has changed.


But I'm not all doom and gloom, because I did celebrate my good news with my friends on Friday and we had a great time with dinner and drinks, toasting to my future. See pics above. I've read that life after chemo can be even harder than during the process--emotionally that is--because you're struggling to find your new normal (that is a life of hospitals and needles) and everyone around you expects you to slip back to your old normal. It's definitely interesting to say the least!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ALL CLEAR

I spoke to my doctor today and the mass in my chest is gone!!  The lymph nodes also are not showing any activity of cancer. Thank God!!!  It's a surreal feeling and I think it's still sinking in. I still have to have 2 more rounds of chemo just in case.  My doctor thinks that for a young woman such as myself, continuing with the chemo will be better than having radiation because the risks of me getting breast cancer in 10 to 15 yrs would be higher if I have radiation treatment.  So 2 more rounds, 4 more visits.  I'm still dreading going to the hospital on Friday but at least now I know that these treatments are "just in case"

I'm off to celebrate by eating tons of carbs!!