Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #15

Beating Breast Cancer as a Thirty Something - Weekly Update 15

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and have decided to blog about my journey.  If you need to catch up on my story, please check out this page for the chronological list of posts.

I didn’t have much going on in the cancer world this past week.  My main goal was to get past this crummy cold and enjoy my “week 2” of the AC chemo cycle, when I normally feel more like myself.  That goal didn’t really come to fruition, unfortunately.  The one thing that happened this week was my visit to the plastic surgeon, which resulted in a game plan for the rest of my expansion appointments.

Note:  It goes without saying that this post contains general information about my breast reconstruction.  AKA “boob talk”.  As I’ve said before, if that will make things uncomfortable for you when you see me in the supermarket, you don’t have to read this update.  No hard feelings.

On Wednesday I had an expansion appointment with my plastic surgeon.  I realized, as I took my muscle relaxer prior to the appointment, that this was going to be the first true two-week span between normal expansion appointments.  All of my other appointments so far have been three weeks apart, or not full expansions.  Going into the appointment, I wondered if I would have any discomfort since there had been less time between appointments.  Luckily, it turned out to be no big deal.  I definitely felt the saline being injected and pushed against my chest muscle, but it wasn’t too uncomfortable.

At the appointment, the plastic surgeon and I discussed the plan for the remainder of my expansions.  He says that I am coming along nicely and I should be fully expanded in two to three more treatments.  Looking at my training-bra-sized boobs going into that appointment, I was a little surprised that I had so few expansions remaining.  The doctor explained that, up to that point, the saline was mostly filling up the expanders from side-to-side.  Now the saline has nowhere to go but out, so the last few treatments really make a big impact on fullness.  He said I would notice it with my appointment this past week, and I definitely did.  There was a huge difference in size!  Seriously, I am so excited to have a more woman-like figure instead of that of a pre-teen.  It’s amazing what a tiny bit of cleavage can do for morale! 🙂

Post Mastectomy Profile One

Here is a “then-and-now” of how my chest has changed since the beginning of March.
(If you were curious, saline-filled tissue expanders are basically like having small boulders on your chest instead of boobs.  There is hardly any softness to them at all…or sagginess…or really any movement of any kind.  This means that another bonus to this process is that I can get away with not wearing a bra most of the time.  It’s lovely.)

So, back to my two to three more treatments.  Since I won’t be able to get my actual implants until after radiation (which won’t be until August), there really is no rush for my last few treatments.  I will wait a month for my next expansion appointment, then I will take June off (because the doctor will be gone for most of that month).  My last one or two appointments will take place in July so that I can be fully expanded before radiation starts.  Once I have radiation, my skin will no longer have the elasticity necessary for expansion, so the size I am will be the size I stay.

Alright, boob talk is over.  Now we can talk side effects.

Even though I am at the end of my AC chemo cycles, I still have new side effects coming out of the woodwork.  The nail beds on my thumbs have started to turn a dark brownish color.

The skin on the palms of my hands has been getting super dry and flaking off.  The skin on all of my fingertips has started cracking.  None of this is earth-shattering, or even too noticeable, but I thought it was funny that it took almost eight weeks for these side effects to surface.

I still had my weird Neulasta back spasms from day 10 to 14 of the chemo cycle. I tried taking Claritin for the whole 14 days of a previous chemo cycle, which helped, but I stopped taking it during this cycle when I finally gave in and started taking Dayquil and Nyquil for my cold; I didn’t want to take too many antihistamines. Discontinuing the Claritin opened the door for the back spasms to return, but they really aren’t that bad.  They mainly just take my breath away for a few seconds when they start, continue for about a minute and then they’re done.

Another little result of chemo has been weight gain. I’m not sure if it’s considered an actual side effect of chemo, but it is the result of living with other chemo side effects.  Since I have been dealing with what basically feels like morning sickness, 24 hours a day, I nibble on food non-stop.  However, the chemo has done bad things to my taste buds, so many foods just don’t taste the same.  I end up eating whatever tastes good, whenever I feel like eating, with no thought for calories or fat content. Seriously, when you’re this sick you really don’t care – – you just want to get food down the gullet.

Add that to the decline in my overall activity level that started back in February with my mastectomy and I have gained 15 to 20 pounds since my diagnosis.  I’m not too stressed about it, thanks to the awesome staff at the cancer center who have reinforced that this is not a time to worry about weight gain.  But I definitely can’t wait to get back to my normal activity level and eating habits.

In regards to hair loss, the hair on my head never completely fell out.  I am definitely bald, but I have little whiskers all over the place.  I have lost about half of my eyelashes, but I still have enough to fluff up with mascara.  I continue to enjoy the life of not shaving my armpits – that hair is completely gone and hasn’t grown back.  Most of my leg hair is gone, and what is there grows VERY slowly.  I have read that my hair might start growing back at some point during my Taxol treatments, so that is something to look forward to.

I am so grateful to be starting Taxol this week because it means that I am on the next leg of my journey.  Soon this whole process will be a distant memory – –  a hurdle cleared.  And it’s going to feel oh so good, I tell you.  Oh. So. Good.

Keep Reading —> Weekly Update #16 (May 1, 2017) {Taxol 1 of 12, Zoladex, Ovary Discussion}


4 thoughts on “Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #15”

  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I continue to follow your posts and admire the courage of your wOrds. For i am sure this journey is a daily chalLenge of yoyr strength. I pray gods Strength Will help carry you.

  2. You are on quite a journey and i’m always glad to read Your entries and see your Hard fought progress. Oh, and your cleavage is looking fabulous! 🙂 Loves to you and the family. ❤️

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