With October being breast cancer awareness month, although I wanted to open the blog with a pink picture, this picture was the winner. It’s a celebration picture — we are just ready to kick the C out of my life as I go in for my surgery this week. Yes, you read it right. I have wrapped up my chemos (YAY) and entered the next phase with the surgery.
I am overwhelmed sometimes to be surrounded by this amazingness, and my heart is full of gratitude.
Increase Your Awareness
With the timing of my 3rd blog coming up in October, I wanted to use this section to share additional information about breast cancer. While it is easier to google and read about — Why October is celebrated as breast cancer awareness month, Why it is associated with pink etc., I felt the following information to be very useful for all of us to know our bodies better.
https://knowyourlemons.org — is a fantastic website with an app to track your check-ups, understand the different signs and symptoms of breast cancer. During one of my research a couple of months ago, I came across the know your lemons site through this BBC article
I wish I had known about this site earlier. Take your time to go through the website — there is a ton of helpful information with or without cancer.
One of the other commonly asked questions because of cancer spreading from my breast to the lymph nodes are the lymph nodes themselves.
Lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system that work as filters for harmful substances. They help fight infection by attacking and destroying germs that enter the body through the lymph fluid. There are hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body.
Details of cancerous Lymph Nodes very well – www.emedicinehealth.com
This was a surprising read for me. One of the things that stood out for me in the side effects was Drenching night sweats. I started experiencing it from February. Even during the crazy Austin snowstorm in February, I did experience many night sweats and felt full with a small amount of food. I would have never correlated it with cancer. I thought I was experiencing night sweats because of the winter clothing and heating.
What is going on now with me?
I was left with five chemos when I published my second blog. With the White blood cells (WBC) dropping after the chemo cycle, I managed to get only four but could squeeze in one more immunotherapy session before calling it a wrap for the chemo cycle. My medical team did not want to stress my bone marrow further, so the benefit of saving the bone marrow took higher precedence over completing my last chemo cycle.
One of the common side effects of chemo is bone marrow suppression — basically decreasing the ability to generate the required blood cells. This suppression, in my case, resulted in less WBC. I am learning so much about blood and the different categories and counts seen in blood work. I would often hear about Neutrophils from my oncologist during my chemo sessions. Neutrophils protect us from bacteria and viruses, and when there are not adequate numbers, we are predisposed to infection. Especially if its count is less than one, then it could be quite concerning. And most times, with low WBC — my numbers would go down to One, resulting in Neutrophils being further down than one. So I had to be extremely careful with infections which resulted in me staying all the time indoors.
Apart from the low WBC, the neuropathy continued — which is the nerve pain, and even now, I experience the pain randomly after the chemo cycles have ended. The fatigue continues to be a friend of mine. My left hand has become a bit sensitive after the chemo cycles — what do I mean by that? The poking for the blood work or tying the elastic band before drawing the blood invoked unbearable pain, resulting in tears. Somedays, when I wake up in the morning, I experience nerve tingling in the entire left arm for almost 10–12 hours.
I still suffer from chemo brain, making it difficult to do more than one thing at a time and remember names. I was very good with names, so it makes me sad that I now struggle with it.
It brought a lot of joy for my family and me when my oncologist shared that I could skip the last chemo and called an end to my chemo cycle. I met with my surgeon the following evening to discuss — it was a day of mixed emotions. While I was happy that my chemo sessions ended, the fact that I had to get mentally ready for the surgery brought in a whole new flood of emotions.
I also realized that although the chemo sessions ended, the road to come back to normalcy takes a long time. I’m not sure why I thought all my side effects would vanish instantly, but this article helped me get some reality check.
One of the hardest things I see people struggling with is “recovery time,” particularly as it relates to fatigue from cancer treatment.
“The rule of thumb I usually tell my patients is that it takes about two months of recovery time for every one month of treatment before energy will return to a baseline.” – https://news.sanfordhealth.org/cancer/done-with-chemo-when-will-i-feel-better/
I will be undergoing a double mastectomy this week (Oct 25th week) — total mastectomy on the left and modified radical mastectomy on the right. I will share more in-depth about my feelings and how I overcame my insecurities of losing the breasts in my next blog.
Thank you again to so so many of you for reaching out and keeping me in your thoughts and prayers — I am so touched.
I am anxious, nervous, and scared, not knowing how the future will be without both breasts, but I am confident it doesn’t define who I am or change my personality.
The goal to live and remain cancer-free continues to be on top of my list.