3 years, 7 months and 8 days.

But who is counting?

It has been a long time since I have blogged.  But so much has happened.  It is exciting to think less and less about breast cancer every day.  But it is never far away.  Between all of the pink in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month, checkups with my oncologists and surgeons, any ache and pain that I used to brush aside and now wonder if it could be cancer or the numerous women I have met that have also joined my unlucky club.

Every day I get farther and farther from that horrible day and those months of treatment.  But every day I take a pill called Tamoxifen that helps protect me from the estrogen receptor of my breast cancer from coming back.  Although it is a mild drug, I have struggled with being able to get back to the weight I once was (and I promise I eat well and work out a ton). It also has complications that I have struggled with.  Last year I had large ovarian cysts removed that looked suspicious for cancer and they have continued to haunt me throughout the years.

I meet women every month that are going through what I once dealt with.  I have spoken with a sister of colleague who is only 26 with 2 children, an aunt of my friend who is only 2 weeks from divorce, a college friend I used to work with who is only 30, a few women I met on this very blog – one who was also diagnosed around 27 and on Friday the 13th, my aunt, a friend from home, a college friend’s friend who she knew from work, 3 of my sisters friends (or friends of friends),  a few women from a facebook board that I have become close with, a coworker and a friend from home.  I have also spoken with friends  who are around my age from home battling other cancers… 4 to be exact, 4 too many.  One didn’t make it and left her 2 young sons and husband to go on without her.  It breaks my heart every time I get that message….. “Hi Tessa, I know it has been a while, but I just got diagnosed…”  I don’t want anyone to deal with cancer.  It is a terrible unpredictable disease that has no mercy.  This has to end.

But beyond all of these ugly reminders of cancers, what I really wanted to write about was gratefulness.  3 years ago, I remember sitting in those waiting rooms scared and feeling very alone even though I was surrounded by all of my wonderful friends and family.  I remember wondering if I was ever going to be able to do the three things that I wanted the most… 1. Travel the world.  I felt like it was something I was putting off every year.  2. Get married… It broke my heart to wonder if my health would allow me the time to find the one that I wanted to grow old with.  3. Have children.  I can now happily look at my list and be so thankful because I have been able to travel the world (maybe not all of it – but more than I had, with more on the horizon) and I have found my husband.  In fact, he proposed to me in the waiting room while receiving my biopsy results for my ovarian cyst….All I could think of is, “Why the hell is he proposing to me here!? I hate this place!”  And then he simply said, “I love you.  And I want you to associate this place with happy moments and not just scary things.”  He is the best.  I never imagined being this happy.  We had a smaller civil ceremony in January and in February we are having our larger Catholic ceremony and reception in England. I cannot wait to be surrounded by our family and friends to be able to celebrate our lives and marriage.  wedding photo

No children yet, but the fact that I can still have kids at some point, is a win for me.  A lot of my breast cancer sisters don’t have that opportunity and I have had enough scares and mentions of hysterectomy that I try to focus on that future.

As I was finishing up my Christmas shopping today, all I could think of was thankfulness.  Sometimes I forget to remind myself of focusing on all I should be thankful for.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the stress and to be grumpy.  But I am here.  And although my life is not so extraordinary, it is so full of love and happiness.  I have a wonderful husband, a job that I love to go to every day, amazing friends and family, faith and my health.

So as cliche as it may sound, just remember to not get caught up in the day to day stresses.  Love your family and love your friends.  Don’t get wrapped up in the little annoyances that come with life or the little things that your friends and family may do that drive you nuts.  Enjoy the little things.  Hug your spouse.  Hug your friends. Hug your children.  Enjoy laughter.  And appreciate your health.

Merry Christmas.

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1 year, 4 months and 18 days out…

So I missed my year out post.  I was very busy living my life.  It has been a whirlwind of a year to say the least.  I think about the past year all the time and still can’t believe that happened.  I definitely think you deal with a little PTSD after cancer but overall I would say I am doing pretty darn good.

My hair now!

After treatment was finished I definitely had a few freakouts.  I am still scared it will come back but am doing my best to keep some perspective.  I think in some ways after chemo/surgeries are over you actual have enough time to absorb what actually happened and it can be some heavy stuff.  It is also hard because a lot of people think that everything will just return to the way it was before.  People move on and expect you to as well but it just isn’t that easy.  I have been strong for all the other people in my life for a while  now, but it is ok for me to be scared.  Cancer is by no means my identity but it is a part of me and just because it is a scary thing, I am not going to ignore that that happened to me.  All I can do is focus on living my life!

So what have I been doing to get over all the mental mind games of cancerland?  I’ve been working hard to get back to my normalcy which means training!  I have been running a ton.  I have done a few half marathons, two sprint triathlons (one as a guide, one on my own), my very first olympic length triathlon (1 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 10k run) as a charity entrant for Achilles Track Club (thank you to all who donated), 2 more olympic triathlons (one on my own and one as a guide) AND my very first half ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run)!  I know it sounds nuts but if I have learned anything from last year it is “why wait!?”

After an olympic tri

After guiding in a sprint triathlon

I have had a lot of ups and downs with running.  I felt great in the beginning of the year but then suddenly took a huge turn and became so fatigued that I was nervous something was terribly wrong.  After some oddball blood work (and minor anxiety) it turned out that my thyroid was going nuts.  I went  as far hyperthyroid as could be (which can also make you tired…I didn’t get the positive side effects) to as far hypothyroid as I could be.  I felt so run down and definitely battled some weight gain.  My doctors are finally getting it under control after a solid 7 month battle.  So all of that being said some days the running hasn’t been as easy.  But as my thyroid levels get back in to range my energy level is increasing.

So running and training for triathlons have totally been my therapy. I have been asked by a few people why I have never gone to talk to a therapist through this journey.  The amount of doctors appointments I have had over the past year has been ridiculous.  The last thing I wanted was to take another half hour of my day to visit another doctor.  I really wanted to get back to as much of a normal routine as much as possible.  I remember during my first half marathon back every mile marker I would get to I would imagine a cancer mile marker (kind of like in the Biggest Loser when they get rid of some pounds during a long run) that I got past and imagine putting it away in my mind.  I think therapy is a terrific option for cancer patients but it is definitely a choice and a time commitment that each person has to make. Every run, workout and race makes me more confident in the strength of my body and feel more like myself.  I have my moments when I really don’t want to do that workout and then I try to remember what I was doing at this time last year.  I’m trying to be patient with my self (although it is hard) as I get back in shape and listen to my body as I go.

I really have jammed a LOT into the last 15 months…. Let’s see…

Double Mastectomy

7,000 doctor appointments

Fertility preservation

4 months of chemo treatment

Reconstructive Surgery

Being in two weddings

Costa Rica vacation

2 half marathons

2 sprint triathlons

1 trip to Miami for a wedding

3 olympic triathlons

A trip to London and Barcelona with my girlfriends

Figuring out how to manage my new ridiculously curly hair

22 Herceptin treatments (half hour IV treatments I get every three weeks) – Just finished in August! Woo!

and still to come… NYC marathon!

I think I am totally living my life to the fullest 🙂 Favorite quote that pretty much sums up my where my focus is:

live with intention.
walk to the edge.
listen hard.
practice wellness.
play with abandon.
laugh.
choose with no regret.
continue to learn.
appreciate your friends.
do what you love.
live as if this is all there is.-Mary Anne Radmacher

Hair Loss

There was no way around it.  I was going to lose my hair.  Pretty much right around the two-week mark it started happening.  My scalp felt funny and my hair would just pull out so easily in handfuls.  No matter how much you try to mentally prepare for it, it is still really scary.  When I went to the wig store they told me when it started to fall out then I should just come in and they would buzz it because that way you feel a little more in control and it isn’t as traumatic.  So I got to hang on to my hair for my 27th birthday party in Central Park (have I mentioned how amazing my friends are) but three days later, right after my second treatment it was time and it just happened to fall on my actual birthday.

My 27th birthday party in Central Park 3 days before I shaved my hair....

So I went during my lunch break to buzz my hair.  It is a little funny sounding now, but I really tried to balance work (normal life) with cancer fighting.  Granted it was a long lunch break but off I went.  I armed myself with a few of my closest work friends, Heather and Greg and my best friend Jenny.  I knew they would both keep the vibe positive and make me laugh.

Pirates of Nickelodeon and Astoria

It was pretty quick.  Off he shaved my hair that I had been “growing out” before I found out about the cancer. But I made one special request.  Can I have a mohawk first?  So I got the most bad ass mohawk and took some rocking pictures in my preppy dress.  It definitely lightened the mood.

rock out.

bad ass.

He then fit my wig to my now bald head and then I went for lunch with my friends.  I didn’t cry during the shaving.  I had a moment where I was really close when I caught Jenny’s eye.

I wore Bambi, but man my head was so itchy.  My hair that was left was trying to fall out and no one told me this but not wearing a wig cap is bull shibubu.  Yeah I had the fancy lace front wig but those things are itchy. I feel like I get hives when I try to wear it plain.  So if you know anyone who has to go through this buy them a cloth wig cap.  I had a tough time figuring out the wig situation for the first few weeks because of my already itchy scalp and not having a wig cap.

For the most part I was fine that day.  I felt a little like a TV reporter with my wig, Bambi, but it was my new reality.  Jenny told my sister once that I am usually really strong the day that something happens but I tend to fall apart the next day when the reality sets in.  I have a little bit of delayed reaction.  So that is what I did.  I was fine all day and got home to Jenny and my good friend Dria and fell apart behind closed doors.  I was tired.  My head was itchy.  I had turned 27 and instead of starting my life I felt like I was going backwards.  And I was bald.  Happy Birthday.

I had a little bit of an identity crisis the next few days.  I wore a scarf to work the next day because my head was just too itchy. I felt like a pirate or a wanna be Erykah Badu. I was not comfortable with the scarf.  The next day getting ready for work I was having a tough time trying to figure out what scarf to wear to coordinate with my outfit so I went and bought a fedora on the way in to work from a street vendor.  And bam. Look #2 was born: “Carmen Sandiego.”  Scarf + Fedora made me feel so much less like a cancer patient.

Carmen Sandiego

Up until this week the cancer was my little secret.  I could tell people when I felt like it.  I could walk down the street and no one would know that I had breast cancer.  But now I looked like a cancer patient.  I didn’t want sympathy looks.  And let’s be honest losing your hair as a woman really hits hard.  First my boobs and now my hair.  I kept up a very strong front but I had to adjust.  So I did what any person in a serious identity crisis/meltdown would do and stayed in all weekend like a dirty shut in and watched a weekend marathon of “Swamp People.” Those people will make you feel better about yourself any day of the week. And then I picked myself up and decided to put on a confident smile and move on as best I could.

Cancer could take away my breasts and my hair but it was not going to take away my happiness.

gi jane

Why did you cut your hair?

What I'm rocking up top now... A little over 4 months post chemo

Sooooo it has been awhile. I can’t say I’m the most consistent blogger, but I still do want to chronicle the tails of cancerland.  I’m now 9 months post diagnosis, 4 months post last chemo and 3 months post my final surgery. It has been a CRAZY year.  Let me catch you up on what I have been up to the last few months:

Recovering from my final reconstruction surgery

Getting the go ahead to start running again and being a running machine on Christmas break

Visiting with my family and friends in Ohio for the holidays

Rocking out my new pixie hair cut more and more

Going to Costa Rica to bring in the New Years

Hiking

Mountain Biking

Ziplining

Canyoning

Paddleboarding

Kayaking

Snorkeling

Bungee Jumping

Oh ya know… No big deal.  Same ole same ole.

And lastly…. answering a lot of questions about why I cut my hair.  Perfect strangers… “Nice haircut.  What made you do it?”  Ummmm “Cancer”  Ok.  I know they say you shouldn’t lie, but I’m taking some liberties here. Nosey people!  I don’t know why did you wear that top!?

I’m doing really good now.  I am beyond cancer in so many ways but I still think about it every day.  Some days less than others (vacation and good company really helped).  But I am finding my new “normal.”  I’m working on adjusting to my new reality.  I still have quite a few doctors appointments but I’m starting to have less and less.

I will back on track blogging soon.  I just needed to take a little breather.

Next up hair loss!

Hi, perfect stranger. My name is Tessa and I have cancer…

Last week I looked in the mirror and suddenly I realized that the eyebrows that I have been desperately watching and waiting for more signs of life, were kind of out of control.  Yes, the same ones that were just a single file line of hair that I colored in every morning.  After urgings from my roommate to get them shaped I finally went to the eyebrow lady down the street.  I honestly wasn’t looking forward to this excursion.  Not because I thought I was going to scare off my other little eyebrow hairs from coming in by ripping their cousins out (although the thought crossed my mind), but because I am sick of the questions from random people.  But I suck it up just like I have for the last 6 months and wait for the questions.  I sit down in the chair sans Bambi the wig sporting my very hardcore Demi Moore buzz cut. I tell her that I am trying to let them stay a little thicker as they grow in.

Eyebrow chick: “You shaved your eyebrows?”

Me: “No, they fell out from medicine”

Eyebrow chick: “Ohhh.”

silent thoughts….

Eyebrow chick: “That must have been some strong medicine”

Me: “Yup”

Eyebrow Chick: “Is that what happened to your hair then too?”

Me: “Sure is.  But it is coming back and I’m doing better.”

 

Did you see that?  I resisted!  You fished little eyebrow lady, but I did not give in!  You did not make me say the word cancer.  I just wanted to get a little primping done and you have to go and mention the big c.  I’m sick of going into it with peeps I don’t know lady!  And no!  I did not freaking shave my eyebrows!

A little creepy, but look! An eyebrow with no makeup! My eyelashes are still pretty measly though!

 

Wanna hear another awkward one?

I go to a pilates reformer class pre- my last surgery in order to get my butt back in shape.  We fill out the forms and I explain the deal there.  But we get in the classroom of 7 and she starts going to each one of us out loud in front of the class.  She gets to the tiny eyebrowed girl in the pink bandana and asks if I have any issues that could restrict my pilates class.

Me: “I just had surgery a few months ago in my arms and chest area so I have some weakness still.”

Pilates Instructor: “Like shoulder surgery?”

Me:  *Hmmm is there a way to get around this? Oh who cares!* “No, a double mastectomy.  Breast cancer awareness month!”

Class: *crickets*

 

See… It is better just to ignore the giant pink elephant in the room sometimes. But I must say, I thought it was funny throwing in the “breast cancer awareness month” line!

Chemo Beginnings: Treatments 1-4 Adriamycin and Cytoxan

I go in for my first chemo manned with my close friend Staci.  Every time I go in to the Breast Cancer Center I feel hyper aware of everyone around me.  Especially at first.  I can’t help but wonder if I am going to look like that.  I admire those who look strong and have a sense of style amidst losing their hair.  I notice who they are here with.   I try to spot the wig.  I look for others that are on the younger side so I can relate. I feel like the eyes follow me because of my age.  Even at the #2 cancer hospital in the U.S.  I still get awed at for my age by the lab techs.  They tell me that it scares them to see me because I am their daughter’s age.  Welp, glad I’m the new face of scary.

This is a typical day of chemo.  You go in to the first floor and get your finger pricked for blood work.  Then you leave the lab and go to the 3rd floor to meet with your oncologist.  You wait.  You meet your doctor.  They ask you how you are.  They ask you about your symptoms.  Then they order up your drugs.  Then you go to the 4th floor for chemo.  You sit in the waiting room for an even longer time.  You see the same faces every week because they are on similar schedules.  The wait for the actual chemo room can be awhile.  Usually it is around an hour and half up to two and half hours.

This doctor looks scary..... oh wait that is just JHuffy from my hometown amusing me in the wait...

might as well amuse ourselves!

Once your name is finally called you freaking feel like you are the winner running down the aisle at the Price is Right, except instead of a new car I am facing the dreaded drugs.  I was so anxious about the first time.  Honestly every two weeks I would feel this dark cloud moving in.  I was always afraid that maybe the next one would be the breaking point for me.

In to the chemo area of the floor we go.  At my hospital everyone gets their own room (at some hospitals it is a large open room).  In my room (about the size of a substantial walk in closet) there is a lounge chair for me and a tv with a few chairs for my guests.  The nurse comes in and gets you all set up with your IV.  They run some pre-chemo drugs which for these rounds include a steroid and an anti-naseua drug  In the first four chemos I get Adriamycin and Cytoxan.  Adriamycin is also known as the red devil.  Nothing like getting the chemo that has the bad rep amongst the toxic drugs.  The nurse comes in with another nurse to double check that I am getting the correct dosage and then the giant gloves and cover goes on the nurse while inject the Adriamycin.  It is such a dangerous drug that the don’t even let this one drip through a bag because if it doesn’t go through the IV correctly it will burn my skin.  They push it into my IV in giant syringes.  After that is over I get Cytoxan.  Cytoxan is set up in an IV drug and drips into me.  For the first 4 treatments the actual chemo session only lasts an hour and a half.  I say that after already being at the hospital for 3-4 hours.  Usually the day lasts about 5 hours.

I'm so excited for toxic drugs!!!

During the sessions I feel a little groggy and sleepy.  Most of it is from the pre-chemo drugs.  Sometimes I get a little hot and flushed from the chemo drugs. I pass the time at the hospital with whoever decides to join me for the day.  We would chat or play games on my iPad (that my friggin coworkers chipped in for for me… seriously?  what coworkers do that! but it was an awesome chemo past time). Usually I would take a small cat nap. I’m totally blessed with awesome friends and family so there was no shortage.  Staci came with me the first week.  Jess, one of my closest friends from highschool, came with her husband Greg the second session.  Steve, one of my closest guy friends in the area came with me the third session (although I did promise him all the women would be topless at the Breast Center-ha).  And Stac came back for the fourth session.

Adriamycin and Cytoxan usually knocked me out for the day.  I would get nauseous from them.  I don’t know what it is like to have morning sickness but I imagine it would feel like that, but generally all day for the first 3-4 days post chemo.  If I didn’t eat it was worse, but I didn’t really want to eat.  I was more worn out in the first few days post chemo.  I also had to do a shot called Neulasta the day after chemo (which I gave to myself – I used to associate shots with lime and salt… hmmmm). Neulasta helps keep your counts high enough by causing your bone marrow to create more white blood cells and enables me to get a dose dense treatment but it hurts like hell.  It makes you hurt all over from the inside out.  It hurts to move it hurts to be still.  It hurts my muscles and my bones.  It hurts to swallow so much that I can only manage soup.  It hurts to lay down on the softest pillow.  The good thing is for me the pain mainly hit at the end of day 2 or 3 so I was able to make it through most of my work day before going home to the promise of strong pain pills.  Nighttime brought me hot and cold flashes until I gave in to the anti-nasueau drug that aided in my sleep.

Monday was chemo day for me and usually by Saturday I was starting to turn the corner and feel better.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays weren’t as bad since I was so doped up on steroids.  Thursdays and Fridays were the worst.  I drank a ton of water through treatments and I think that helped a lot.  The 2nd week after chemo although sluggish I was able to get on with life functioning a little more including runs and going out with friends.  I worked through all of chemo.  I would take chemo days off and had a few sick days but really enjoyed the normalcy of having to get up and get on with life.  That and I like my job which also helps.

These treatments are spread over four months.  They are supposedly the worst part of my chemo treatment but I am still nervous to see how my body reacts to the second half of treatments….

Update – Post Expander Exchange/Life

Perks of cancer.... funny halloween costumes....

Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean and Lauren!

So I have been a little MIA on the blog front lately.  The last month has been a whirlwind.  I will get back to the fun details of losing my hair and chemo but for now a little update on where I am now.

I finished my last chemo treatment a month ago and had my expander exchange surgery two days ago.  So please excuse me if my blog gets a little rambly.  I’m on percocet people!  I feel like I’m in a permanent state of drunkeness.  I am doing pretty good recovering from the surgery.  I will have a post about what exactly happened and all the details, but basically I’m not in near as much pain as I was from the double mastectomy and I have those annoying bulky expanders out now replaced with silicone implants.  I have drains that hang from my beautiful velcro bra again and am in some pain but not too terrible.  So hopefully while I am home I can bust out a whole bunch of posts.

I’m basically done with this whole cancer shabang (knock on wood).  In some ways though this month has been harder mentally than others.  I get anxious whenever there is new steps and the anticipation for the next surgery, growing my hair back out and switching to Tamoxifen has made me antsy.  I’m also really really worn out.  I think the adrenaline rush of trying to get through chemo has finally faded.  I have let my guard down and now my body is tired.  I have still been working and trying to work out when I have the energy for it (especially knowing that I have 6 weeks to not work out post my expander surgery).

I’m not only physically tired, but I am mentally tired.  It is like getting through one of those really busy times in your life.  Trying to balance a “normal” life and cancer is not easy.  And I’m truly sick of cancer.  It is everywhere I look.  I’m so happy for all the awareness of breast cancer, but I can’t even go to the grocery store and buy a string cheese without thinking about breast cancer since it is on the packaging.  Part of me wants to ignore it and go back to my cheery life but I know that it will never be like that again.  There is this giant Pink Elephant in the room no matter where I go.

Finishing up treatment and these major milestones is great, but it really does make you start to think about things a little more seriously.  No one wants to hear it, but once you stop the chemo you can’t help but wonder what if it comes back.  I do honestly think I will be ok, but I can’t say that I don’t think about the what ifs.

It is odd because although I am finished I feel more like a “cancer patient” then ever now.  My eyelashes and eyebrows are hanging on for dear life and I look a little run down.  But I’m still smiling and getting through things.  I guess this is just another stage in the process.

So looking forward to starting a new year with only the maintenance left to take care of and a vacation in my future.

Hardcore muscles and biker girls kicking cancer out of their lives!

Bambi the Wig

Bambi the temptress. My wigdresser said we had to make her extra "big" for my first photo. Nice and floosey-like.

So I’m going to lose my hair.  It is going to happen.  My doctor told me to start looking and handed me a prescription for a hair prosthesis.

I try to do some research of places to go.  Wigs can range from $40 – $5,000 plus.  I mean I’m all for looking good but $5,000 seems a little steep for a temporary situation.  And that is just what this will be.

I go to the doctor on Thursday and really don’t have that much time to go to find a wig. I don’t know how long it will take as far as ordering it, finding something I like and when my hair will actually fall out so I start to panic a bit since I’m starting chemo on Monday.

I plan to run out to a wig store Friday after work. My one friend gets stuck in traffic and the other gets delayed from work.  So I end up at a theatrical wig store (in which the guy politely told me I need a chemo wig and to go somewhere else) and a wig store that looked like something like the dollar store of wigs.  I look like a cheap hooker in all the wigs they put on my head.  They tell me it is a wig and it isn’t going to look like my hair.  I’m all by myself and trying to keep calm.  I leave upset and feeling overwhelmed.

I have an appointment for the next day in which there is a $100 consult fee. I’m skeptical because of this.  I feel like I’m going to feel obligated and they are going to make me fall in love with a $5,000 wig.

This time I’m armed with my two closest girls in NYC: Dri and Jenny.  We go in and it reminds me of a nice hair salon but everyone has their own room which is very nice.  One giant step up from the day before. Celeb pictures line the wall.  Do they really all have wigs?

I get a flaming, blunt wigdresser.  Thank you, God!  I think God knows my sense of humor and knows when to step in.  Instead of having pity parties for me he is telling me about how many guys are going to think I’m hot bald and how I will turn heads in my new wig as well as a ton more inappropriate things.

He sits me down and brings out quite a few shades of blonde.  Huhh.. not bad.  I have fine hair so wigs seem foreign to me.  I never have that good of hair days or so much volume.  They all have some sort of bang as well to cover the wig line, which I have never had.  I feel a little “news anchor-y” in them all.  Suddenly he brings out this ridiculously long blonde wig that looks a little trampy.  It has roots!!! Now we are talking my language!  Dirty blonde!  The color matches really well.  And although the length is a little much he tells me we can cut it closer to my length (but adds we should add an inch or so for dramatic effect).  Boom.  Done.  I’m laughing the whole afternoon with my friends and my new gay wigdresser.  I’m prancing around the salon in the wig I have affectionately named Bambi since she looks a little floosey.  I feel like a mermaid it is so long (pre cut).

Do I look like a country singer? Helllllloooo big hair!

I force my friends to try on Bambi too, which is even funnier.

Jenny looks like she is diggin' Bambs

Dri as a blonde!

I never knew finding replacement hair would be so fun.

When I actually start losing my hair I will come back in and they will shave my head for me.  They say it is better and less traumatic that way.  Which to be fair, it is pretty traumatic any which way you put it, but I will blog about that in a few posts.  Bambi deserves her own post.  They will fit Bambi to my newly bald hair and cut it and style it for me.

The wig puts me back $550 but insurance eventually (still waiting) will cover $500.  But it looks pretty freaking good for a wig!  Even near the scalp it isn’t bad because of it’s “lace front.”  I have duped many people with that wig this summer.

More stories to come about Bambi the wig.  She is her ownnnnnn being.

Bambi's final look...

Cancer Mantras

rocking out Bambs'

There have been three things that have I have continuously remembered throughout this journey the last few months.

1.  Fake it till you make it.

Everyone has heard it.  It can apply to anything in your life, but I honestly think faking it has really made myself believe in whatever mood I really want.  If I’m sad and I act sad and scared, guess what?  Everyone is going to act sad and scared right back.  It is really easy to stay in a funk if you have decided to.  I imagined what I wanted to be like through this journey and even though I have faked it sometimes, I now believe in it.  I honestly feel happier and more confident because of this trick.  Should you fake it all the time?  Absolutely not, but nobody has fun hanging around someone negative all the time (and I certainly don’t like hanging out with my mopey self).

2. Nobody likes a sad bald girl.

Similar to the quote above.  My “wigdresser” (which will be blogged about soon and it is gonna be a good one) told me this and he was totally right.  Confidence is what you exude.  Smiling is much more attractive.  Honestly, I have had more attention with that damn wig than I ever did with my normal hair.  And I don’t think it is because of that floosey Bambi (my wig’s name).  I just don’t care anymore. I have realized that I am who I am, take it or leave it and I’m starting to realize that is more attractive than any hairstyle.

And lastly, but most importantly.

3. When life hands you lemons, upgrade to cantaloups.

Game Plan

Jenny, Staci and I at the oncologist office... Ok I lied, this is us at the Kentucky Derby party the Saturday I first went in to get my bump looked at.

I still feel like I’m in this haze of waiting.  I’m waiting for what happens next.  I’m anxious about meeting with the oncologist for the whole month.  I am still working to get my arms back to a normal range of motion.  I am like a walking robot.  I go back to work after two weeks.  My work was totally supportive and didn’t push me to come back in as early as I did, but I was ready to go back to “normalcy.”  There is only so many “Real Housewives” a girl can take.

The next few weeks tick by.  It is really hard being a New Yorker and not being able to lift over 5 lbs.  My mac is 4.7lbs.  Phew.  That was close.  I’m usually loaded up with bags to trek in to the city like a mule, but now all I can carry is a little purse.

I continue to get my boobs “pumped” up.  What an odd process.  It hurts my back a lot.

I finally make it to the oncologist visit.  I’m ready to know what I’m facing for the next few months.  I’m very nervous.  Jenny and Staci, my two good friends, have come for moral support and to ask questions (some inappropriate and embarrassing ones I might add).  After reviewing everything with my biopsy my doctor goes over what kind of breast cancer I have.  It was 1.8 cm of a mass which is right around the 2 cm mark that they use in staging to be stage 2.  It is an aggressive grade.  I don’t have the BCRA gene which means it isn’t a hereditary gene that could also cause me to get Ovarian caner.  I am estrogen, progesterone and HER+ positive.  What does this actually mean?  Well this helps decide how to treat my cancer.  They can use drugs to block my estrogen from building more cancer.  HER+ is a more aggressive form of cancer.  Years ago it was a very bad thing to be diagnosed with HER+ breast cancer, but now there is a wonder drug called Herceptin which has allowed doctors to be able to treat it much better.

So what does the chemo doc tell me?  She sits me down and explains everything above and explains that with a little of my cancer spreading to my lymph node she recommends me having 16 weeks of chemo every other week. That is considered dose dense, so in order for my body to be able to handle the schedule I have to give myself a shot of what is called Neulasta after each round.  Neulasta helps my body recover in counts but it also hurts your body like hell.  The chemo choice is AC-TH which is four treatments of AC followed by 4 treatments of T with 8 consecutive weeks of the H drug (Herceptin – not chemo, doesn’t mess your body up the same way) or TCH which is 6 treatments every 3 weeks.  I had to make a decision between the two treatments which was awesome because I’m not a doctor.  ACTH can be harder on your heart, but has been the treatment of choice longer and has a smidge of better results.  I ultimately went with ACTH after a weekend of hemming and hawing.

After the 16 weeks of chemo I have a year of antibody infusions of Herceptin.  It isn’t chemo (like I said), but it is a 30 minute IV every 3 weeks for a year.  And then I also will start  a drug named Tamoxifen for five years.  This drug blocks some estrogen production to help keep the cancer away, but I can’t have kids on it.  I lose it at this point.  I knew this was going to be an ordeal but I didn’t think it was going to be a year of treatments and five years of drugs.  I know, I know…. I’m young and let’s be honest I’m not ready to have kids any time soon, but I really don’t like it when people tell me what to do.  I don’t like having options taken away from me.  Five years of my life. It is all very overwhelming.

I ask the doctor questions about my every day life.  Can I still work?  Yes.  Is it ok to ride the subway?  Yes.  Do I have to where one of those masks and look like  a crazy person? No.  Can I travel to my sister’s wedding shower and wedding?  Yes.  Am I going to lose my hair?  Yes.

Interesting.

After looking at my schedule of events I would like to fit in (priorities people!  cancer shmancer), we realize we have to start treatment on Monday.  It is Thursday.

The next few days are filled with preparations.  I get my teeth cleaned because that can help me from developing infection but you can’t do it while on chemo.  I get an Echocardiogram to check how my ticker is before putting it through the ringer. And I start looking at wigs before my hair falls out.

And now the fun begins…