In December of 2016 I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer.  After a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, I am now cancer free and blogging, once a month, about my continued recovery (as long as there’s some news to share).  To read my whole cancer story in chronological order, click here.

beating breast cancer as a thirty something - monthly update

It was a quiet month where my cancer journey is concerned.  I didn’t have any appointments but I did have a chat on the phone with my oncology nurse practitioner.

After I found out that I am a sitting duck with a “probable” kidney stone, I decided that I really needed to get established with a primary care physician here in our new area.  So I called around and found out that there is a LONG wait for a new patient appointment (even after I explained my situation).  After getting my appointment on the calendar for MAY (seriously?!), I realized that I really needed a little bit more information about my kidney stone before then.  So I contacted my oncologist’s office and asked them a few follow-up questions:

Should I stop taking my calcium supplement?  The short answer was no.  Apparently calcium supplements can cause kidney stones in some cases but they can HELP kidney stones in other cases (???).  She said that I should just continue with the supplement because, based on the size of the kidney stone, it was probably forming before I started my calcium supplement.

Speaking of size, does this even look like it’s passable?  She said that the imaging just barely even caught the stone, so it’s hard to make any conclusions about size based on what they saw.

If a PCP is going to send me to a specialist anyway, should I just bypass this long wait and go straight to a urologist/nephrologist?  Basically, see the answer to the previous question.  They really don’t know enough about it from the imaging to make a call like that, especially since I’m not yet symptomatic.

After we talked about my kidney stone for a little while, I asked a few other questions about things that had been on my mind. I am very grateful that she was willing to take the time to answer my questions over the phone.

One thing that I get asked a lot is “how long after chemo did _______ go back to normal?”  Honestly, I haven’t kept the best track of certain things, but I thought I’d give you a brief overview of how things are going physically now that I am eight months post-chemo, six months post-radiation, and six months post-oophorectomy.

  • Hair:  My hair is CRAZY right now.  I am pretty lucky to have wavy/curly hair that I can scrunch and disguise the awkwardness of my hair, but it still has a mind of its own lately.  Yesterday I decided to blow dry and straighten my hair to see how long it REALLY is these days.  The first picture is what it looked like after I dried it (yikes!) and the second picture is how long it was after it was straightened.  My hair style needs some major clean up if I really want to wear it straight, but it was promising to see how long it has gotten.

hair growth eight months post chemo hair growth eight months after chemo

  • Eyebrows/Eyelashes:  My eyebrows have grown back as good as they’re going to get.  I’m almost positive that they are thinner than they were before cancer, so I still fill them in a little bit when I put on my makeup.  Same thing with my eyelashes; they’re back, but they’re not the same.
  • Fingernails:  My fingernails lifted as part of my Taxol chemo and they are ALMOST back to normal.  I have one fingernail that has a slight little half-moon section where it is lifting right at the tip.  It’s really not noticeable at all unless I forget to put on gardening gloves and it gets filled with dirt.
  • Neuropathy:  I still have some residual neuropathy in my toes from the Taxol chemo.  It is mainly just one toe that has never really regained its feeling.
  • Tissue Expanders: I am SOOOOOO done with tissue expanders.  My body seems to feel like it’s time for the boobs-to-be to get switched out for implants.  And I agree.  My rib cage is sore and my chest/underarm area is super tight.  No amount of stretching seems to totally cure it, but it does help.  On the bright side, my surgery is only 25 days away and I know that the end of April will be here before I know it.
  • Menopause:  I’m hot flashing regularly, but it has become my new normal.
  • Overall Fatigue:  At this point, I feel like the fatigue I’m experiencing is more due to the extra weight I’m carrying around (while chasing a toddler all day) than from chemo.  But holy cow, I’m still T-I-R-E-D at the end of the day.

One thing I’m realizing as I round the one-year mark for so many cancer milestones is that I was REALLY out of it during chemo last year.  Take this morning, for instance:  As I was preparing for Easter I couldn’t remember a SINGLE thing about how we celebrated last year.  It’s like there is a big cloud of fog over my memories, and I’m assuming that’s due to the joy of chemo.

One Year Difference in cancer hair growth

Luckily, I had some pictures to help refresh my memory somewhat.  After looking through our Easter pictures from last year (and still not remembering much) I decided to take a similar picture today in order to show what a difference a year makes.

So there you have it.  My next update will be a tribute to my new boobs!