Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #26

beating breast cancer as a thirty something - update 26

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.

Last week brought my 11th round of Taxol.  You all know what that means…I am almost done with chemo!

sitting at chemo Last week’s chemo appointment was more of the usual – – blood work, wait time in the lobby, appointment with nurse practitioner, and then chemo.  This whole process has become surprisingly routine, down to the Benadryl wooziness;  I know just how many pages I can get out of my book after they administer the Benadryl before I have to close my eyes for my weekly nap. 🙂

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but part of my chemo routine has been to take an Ativan the night of chemo.  One of my reactions to the premeds has been to fall asleep easily, but then wake up in the middle of the night as if it is morning.  The Ativan helps keep me asleep, but I only need it that one night.  I ran out of pills, so I made sure to ask for a refill at chemo.  But after all that trouble, it turned out that my body decided to have different insomnia.  I could NOT fall asleep.  At all.  Even AFTER the Ativan.  It was a LOOOOONNNNNNG night but I eventually fell asleep.

As I mentioned in my summer bucket list post, I was feeling like I could conquer the world on Tuesday morning (the fourth of July).  This surprised me since I had such a bad night’s rest the night before.  I’m glad that I was able to feel so well for our holiday campout in the backyard…but I was definitely ready for bed by the time we lit off the fireworks.

On Wednesday, my parents took the kids out of town to my nephew’s baseball game so I was able to have “Day 3” on my own…and I definitely needed it after my sleepless night on Monday and the backyard campout on Tuesday.

Thursday brought a new appointment with a new provider…an occupational therapist who specializes in lymphedema (swelling caused by fluid build up).  Since I had one lymph node removed during my bilateral mastectomy and I am having a significant amount of nodes targeted during radiation, I am at a slightly elevated risk for developing lymphedema.  This first appointment was mainly a consultation.

She started off by explaining the lymphatic system.  Have YOU ever thought about your lymphatic system?  I hadn’t either.  The main takeaway is that the lymphatic system handles about 10% of the fluid movement in the body, while the veins handle the rest.  When a lymph node is taken out of commission, it can cause a build up of the fluid handled by the lymphatic system, which can cause swelling (lymphedema).  She also took the time to explain WHY I shouldn’t have any blood draws or blood pressure taken on the side with my missing lymph node.  I knew that I shouldn’t, but I never fully understood why.  Basically, anything that could anger/inflame a vein could possibly place an extra burden on the lymphatic system on that side, which is fighting an uphill battle already because of the missing and radiated nodes.

Then we talked about my poor hands.  We talked about my tendency to burn my hands (because I don’t feel things right away) and it turns out there is a name for it (but I forgot what it is).  She also gave me some activities to try to encourage my fingers to recover from the little bit of neuropathy that I have.

The last thing we did was have a quick exam of my scar tissue.  I have a big lump above my tissue expander on one side, which the surgeon and plastic surgeon both said was nothing to worry about.  But leave it to the OT:  She explained WHAT the bump was (my pec muscle that was pushed up by the tissue expander) and then explained WHY it was nothing to worry about (it will go back to normal once I have my implants).  But that wasn’t all: She then showed me how I could massage it to loosen it up.

The moral of the story is that I really enjoyed my time with the OT.  What I loved was that she wanted to hear about and address the petty things that I really don’t like mentioning at my chemo appointments.  When you sit in a waiting room among terminal cancer patients, you really don’t want to waste the providers’ time by talking about your numb middle toe.  Talk about perspective!  It was nice to have time with this provider, whose main focus is finding out about (and fixing) my broken little bits.  I will be seeing her a few more times before radiation, to learn some techniques to help boost my lymphatic system before we start zapping it with radiation.

The rest of the week passed quickly and relatively easily.  I have waves of nausea here and there.  My fingernails continue to lift.  Here is my most recent picture of the sad little things.  I have to soak them often in order to keep them clean and “unscented” but this is the best I can get them to look.

fingernails damaged by chemo

fingernails damaged by chemo

My peach fuzz is also becoming a little more substantial.  Here is a recent picture of my noggin (if you can get past my “fresh face” look). Do you notice the overall hint of brown??  Pretty exciting stuff!  If my peach fuzz gets much longer, I will need some of you hip moms to teach me how to give myself one of those faux hawks that you give to your babies with peach fuzz.  🙂

peach fuzz post chemo

Keep Reading —>  Weekly Update #27 {Last Day of Chemo, Last Expansion}

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